Monday, May 18, 2015

Is it too late to tell you my favorite album of 2014?

I shouldn't let another month slip by without some mention of my favorite music from last year — something I've done here more often than not for the last decade. Pulling a bit of an upset over La Roux's sophomore effort, Information Society's _hello world emerged as my favorite of 2014. 

The '80s survivors' self-titled 1988 major-label debut is one of the best synthpop albums ever released. Much of it is melancholy sentiment mixed with contemporary dance grooves, which is the recipe for many of my favorite songs. A handful of other albums followed over the years, but there were no more big hits like "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)" and "Walking Away." _hello world is the first album in many years with the full involvement of all three key players — Paul Robb, Kurt Larson and James Cassidy — and the result is their best album since the debut. Except for the Star Trek samples, all of the familiar elements are in place, not least of which is their ability to craft sweeping pop hooks, although fans of '90s album Don't Be Afraid may find some nods to its darker sound here (the aggressive and irresistible stomper "Where Were You?" being a prime example). Other highlights include first single "Land of the Blind," which gleefully references "What's on Your Mind;" second single "Get Back," a steamroller somewhat of a piece with "Where Were You?" that is even better in the form of the DeathProof Remix; and an excellent cover of Devo's wry "Beautiful World" with Devo's Gerald Casale contributing vocals.

While InfoSoc's songwriting has particularly shone in past synth ballads like "Repetition" and "Fire Tonight," this album's closing ballad, "Tommorow the World," doesn't quite equal those peaks. But, most of the way, there's an energy in these songs that is perhaps unexpected at this late date and simply … pure.

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