Electronic Rock duo Pop Empire has released its debut full-length, The Devil’s Party, available now for free download via The Recording Label Web site. The “all free!” label is the brainchild of Cameron Cochran, formerly of The Sheds and one half of Pop Empire (along with Henry Wilson). PE and label-mates Sacred Spirits (whose Some Stay was The Recording Label’s first offering; see interview here) co-host a joint release/label launch party this Friday at the Southgate House with guests We Are Hex and The Kickaways.
On last year’s Rainy Child EP, Pop Empire introduced itself with an eclectic collection of slanted Art Pop built around solid songwriting and lathered in electronic experimentation. The Devil’s Party shows a slight shift in the duo’s sound. Though The Devil’s Party is still loaded with diversity and dynamics, the album is more focused and the creamy Rock & Roll heart at the center of it all is on display more prominently. Wilson is also the primary vocalist on the new release (they split vocal duties on the EP), another cause for the more consistent nature of the full-length.
Among the album’s 12 tracks are several instrumental interludes where Pop Empire’s more adventurous sonic tinkering comes out. But the songs on The Devil’s Party aren’t devoid of unusual textures or sonic quirks.
Putting more emphasis on the Rock & Roll aspects of the band’s music results in the swaggering guitar riffs and Wilson’s uniquely expressive vocals being front and center in the mix, while the exploratory elements wind in and out with a bit more subtlety. Songs like “True Believer” and “The Devil Was a Preacher” show Pop Empire’s love for classic Rock & Roll, recalling everything from The Rolling Stones to the glammier strut of David Bowie or Marc Bolan. “Like a Body” could be a T Rex outtake had Bolan recorded an album after receiving a shipment of the latest (in the ’70s, at least) synths and drum machines, while the propulsive “Hail Holy Light” picks the pace up to almost Punk levels, matching thick, fuzzed-out riffs with spacey synth leads and hyper electronic beats.
The Devil’s Party sounds like a band tightroping between two distinctive approaches and sounds. The same material could be played by four scruffy young Garage Rock kids or a poofy-haired, British Synth Pop duo and still be engaging. But it’s Pop Empire’s way of artfully bridging the gap that makes The Devil’s Party so unique and captivating.
Local Music Booster Boosts Signal
At midnight on Jan. 31, longtime Northern Kentucky-based radio outlet WNKU — the highest profile and most consistent local music supporter on the FM dial — officially became a regional powerhouse. The all-music channel can now be heard clearer in Greater Cincinnati and well beyond, thanks to the station’s acquisition of two new FM frequencies. Along with its traditional 89.7 FM frequency, WNKU can now be heard on 105.9 (transmitting from Middletown) and 104.1 (from Portsmouth), expanding the station’s reach from Richmond, Ind., to Dayton, Ohio, to Charleston, W.V.
WNKU, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, doesn’t limit its support of local music to specialty shows, instead inserting local tracks into its regular “Adult Alternative” playlist. A perusal of Feb. 1’s playlists alone turns up numerous Cincy-area acts, including Over the Rhine, The Raisins, Daniel Martin Moore, The Pinstripes, The Hiders, Ellery and Bam Powell, as well as expats like The National and Heartless Bastards. The station’s expanded reach means expanded exposure for local music, potentially helping artists with everything from regional touring to album sales.
The photo above shows WNKU Station Manager Chuck Miller giving the thumbs up Jan. 31 at the station's broadcast center on the campus of Northern Kentucky University as he and station staff count down the hours to the signal switchover. Get more info here. (Photo by Sam Spencer.)
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