Who listens to music by a single “genre” any more? Thanks to the advent of seemingly endless iTunes libraries and music fans’ ever-more open minds, the best pop music today leaps across old stylistic boundaries. It’s clear, though, that the boundary the most exciting pop acts these days are often crashing is that of dance music. Underground electro sounds are increasingly finding their way filtered into the mainstream, while once-indie acts who just kept it real are being rewarded with crossover success.
Everyone who’s shopped, driven, or flipped on a TV knows acts like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, who rely heavily on absorbing club sounds into radio-friendly. But climbing the ranks behind them are a number of bands who have been plying their danceable electro-pop trade on the trendsetting circuits. Here are five funky electro-pop artists to get to know soon.
Origin: London, U.K.
Essential Track: “Symphonies”
London resident Dan Black is the ultimate pop mad scientist, first gaining Internet notoriety in 2009 for his single “HYPNTZ,” which found him lyrically riffing off the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” while sampling Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” Still, Black was once a proper rocker, as frontman of the band the Servant, and as such, his music isn’t all froth. Rather, he brings real melody and song structure to his own original compositions, which borrow freely from R&B and hip-hop instrumentation. It’s a sensibility reflected in his latest crossover hit, a remix of his single “Symphonies” with a guest appearance from Kid Cudi. Check out the video for the Kid Cudi collboration, and download a different remix of the song, by U.S. electro-poppers Passion Pit, below.
Origin: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Essential Track: “Hot Mess”
The duo of Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) may hail from Montreal, but as Chromeo, they’ve absorbed all of the cheesy dance flotsam of the U.S. and U.K. and turned it into something new and funky. Disco, hip-hop, easy listening, Latin freestyle, and ’80s electro all meet in a blaze of live instrumentation and analog synth, complete with over-the-top romantic — or just plain lascivious — lyrics. For a taste, check out this video for the track “Hot Mess” off the group’s third and most recent album, Business Casual. It features Elly Jackson of La Roux on guest vocals. Below the video, get a free remix of the track by U.S. dance duo Duck Sauce.
Origin: Melbourne, Australia
Essential Track: “Where I’m Going”
Titans on the Aussie electro scene anchored by Modular Recordings, Cut Copy have been at their live/electronic blend of dancefloor jams for nearly a decade. Though the band draws heavily on ’80s New Wave and post-punk styles, their output is decidedly pop. The band’s new, third album, Zonoscope, takes things even further in this direction. Its lead single, “Where I’m Going,” is full of big, sunny, singalong hooks over the usual bank of synthesizers. Download the song below — although it’s so new, a video hasn’t yet been released!
Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Origin: Reading, U.K.
Essential Track: “We Are the Dead”
This Reading fivesome first gained attention at the tail end of the so-called New Rave scene, but have survived such trendy categorization on the strength of its unique take on punk-funk. DIOYY play colossal-sounding dance music, but do so exclusively through live instrumentation, giving their songs a heavy, fist-pump-worthy texture.
Though the band is already a favorite on the festival circuit, thanks to (somewhat unlikely) tour support slots for the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Linkin Park, the boys may be ready to break out even further. Below, check out the video, and download an MP3 of, the band’s song “We Are the Dead.” It’s the lead single from the band’s forthcoming sophomore album, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You. (To download, once the link takes you to the band’s Soundcloud page for the track, hit the down arrow under the word “info” on the right-hand side of the player.)
Kids of 88
Origin: Auckland, New Zealand
Essential Track: “My House”
This Kiwi duo first scored a major hit in its native New Zealand back in 2008 with its debut single, “My House.” Though it’s one of the group’s oldest tracks, it’s still one of the best, summing up the band’s take on electro-pop: sexy, slightly sleazy, and carried by a decidedly rock and roll swagger. (Actually, make that more than slightly sleazy: The pair proudly self-describes its music as “slutty.”) Rude or not, the songs on the group’s debut album, Sugarpills, are indelibly catchy and danceable, and thanks to airplay on major networks like the U.S.’ VH1, may be poised for a big breakthrough beyond the South Pacific. Below, check out the colorful video for “My House,” and download a free remix of the song, courtesy of the Remix Artist Collective.