- From Soft Cell to Closer Musik, the synth-pop duo has always been with us, and it seems that Montreal's Footprintz understand why this 1980s invention endures. Great synth pop is all about simplicity and intimacy, introspection and sadness, rudimentary production and great pop songs, a fragile human voice gently chaffing against cold, yearning synthesisers.
In the magnificently moody "Uncertain Change," or "Heaven Felt Like The Night," Clarian North (who, it's been confirmed, has left the group to focus on his solo career) and Adam Hunter nail that mood in style. Along with "Utopia," those tracks have hooks to spare, lovely basic drum machine sounds and a grainy, unvarnished immediacy. You're there in the duo's studio, wrapped up in the warm, sticky hum of their analogue kit. You can almost hear finger tips rubbing along strings, as refreshingly clipped basslines are picked out.
Had Footprintz stuck to that template, Escape Yourself could have been amazing. Instead, due to their innate creative restlessness or perhaps a feeling that their album must be stylistically diverse, the Canadians open up new angles on their sound, subtly shift the emphasis and, by the closing tracks, have morphed into an entirely different band.
"The Favourite Game" (sleazy, digital lounge pop in the style of Benoit & Sergio) and "The Invisible" (hushed, minimalist Junior Boys white-funk) feel a little unconvincing. But these songs are at least logical extensions of the Footprintz sound. The later drift into pastoral psychedelic pop, on the other hand, is just weird. It starts innocuously with the pleasantly vague "Private Enemy" (Beach Boys-meets-Black Strobe, with very XX guitars), but by "The Nightingale" and "Keys To The Sky," we're in full-on, flowers-in-your-hair territory. There are acoustic guitars, bongos and, quite possibly, brightly patterned headbands in play. The hidden track, tauntingly, reverts back to beautiful, grimy, machine music. It's a pity they didn't stick to that urban-industrial aesthetic.
01. The Things That Last Forever
02. Heaven Felt Like Night
04. The Favourite Game
05. Priviate Enemy
06. The Invisible
07. Uncertain Change
09. Dangers of the Mouth
10. The Fear Of Numbers
11. The Nightingale
12. Keys To The Sky