All of the good band names are taken. What we’re left with are the incarnations of other bands, like chopped up pieces of a Radiohead souffle or an Arcade Fire pork chop.
The synth duo Colours is a good example. They should not be confused with the eclectic singer-songwriter artist City and Colour or the rock band The Colourist. One quick check on Spotify reveals a host of albums and songs named “Colours,” including one by Grouplove. (If you know Colours is the name of the first Resurrection Band album, pat yourself on the back.) It’s a little strange that Kyle Tamo (vocals) and Morgan Alley (drums) went with such a generic name and used the UK spelling, but yet it fits their computer-generated forte.
You have to sort of shoehorn them in somewhere between the dance duo Pacifica (lots of synth digressions, similar vocal style) the nightclub vibe of Kye Kye (stops and starts that should be obvious but aren’t) and the highly approachable sound of a more mainstream artist like Hunter Hunted. The first song “Lawless” is a good place to start. There’s a swirling mix of Korgs that’s a bit unpredictable and even guttural, followed by a wonderfully uplifting chorus. The lights come on, and everyone starts slithering around like they’re back in high school. With Colours, it’s more about the emotion in the music than overly complex chord changes and orchestration.
The next song is called “Monster,” and it’s the best one here. They even made a music video out of it. I like how the wallowing low-range synths sound so gothic at first, then explode into a chorus that could work perfectly as the background track for a smartphone commercial. Nailed it. “Slow” follows a similar trajectory where once you hear the synths off in the distance, then they pummel you on the chorus. If there’s a ding against the music here, it’s that Tamo and Alley follow the same recipe on most songs, but it’s a good recipe and for the most part, it works.
What are they singing about? Mistakes in relationships. Shallow thought-progressions. What people look like. Getting what you want in the end even though you have to go through some drama at first. You know, the subjects that come up in between DJ sets at the club or when your date has to head to the restroom and you chat with the barkeep. It’s not going to make you think “clever wordplay” as much as “those beats are sublime” on most songs.
“Remember” is a good example of what will leave you feeling a bit underwhelmed. The patterned drums sound a bit mushy, and there’s some sketchiness to the vocal effects. My measure of a good synth-rock song from the modern era (see Chvrches or Phosphorescent) is that it sticks to your cranium like glue, in a good way. Some of the songs on Ivory are a tad interchangeable. The recipe that tasted so sweet at first gets a little old. By the time the finger-snaps start echoing on “Part of You” it feels like one of those Liam Neeson thrillers — awesome when you experience it, not that memorable in the long run.
We’re not in Aphex Twin or Skrillex territory here with exceptionally adroit electronica mastery, but for a debut album, Ivory is worth your attention. It’s a fun, pop-infused debut.