One of the great pleasures of writing the Modern Synthpop blog is exploring new music. From time to time, I discover groups that stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries. I’m happy to report that Avec Sans is one of those groups. Their recently-released debut album, Heartbreak Hi, is a delight and a promise of even better things to come.
This talented British synthpop duo combines the crisp, multi layer protection talents of Jack St. James with the truly remarkable voice of Alice Fox. I can’t say enough about her highly expressive voice. From sensually whispered croons to punchy choruses and everything in between, her voice draws you into the music with a siren-like appeal. Fox’s lovely voice and St. James’ polished production mesh perfectly in their well-crafted songs, creating a rich tapestry that is a delight for the eardrums.
Another part of what gives Avec Sans its distinctive sound are the quirky little touches that appear in most of the songs. For example, snippets of vocoded voice nicely accent their compositions, but never become too dominant. Avec Sans has succeeded in creating a unique sound that is truly their own, something that is devilishly hard to do in any music genre, much less synthpop.
Heartbreak Hi contains a nice variety of songs, from lush ballads like Even the Echoes and When You Go to up-tempo numbers like Shiver, Perth and We Are. Here are some highlights from this excellent album:
Even the Echoes: This impressive mid-tempo track starts Heartbreak Hi with gusto. It begins with an atmospheric build up, followed by a melody that is lush and evocative. The lyrics deal with loneliness, and questions if were are ever truly alone: “When life’s so long, that you can hardly/Even the echoes won’t return your call/There is hope in the never ending/Maybe we were never, maybe we were never alone.”
Heartbreak Hi: When a song has a title that deals with heartbreak, you expect a sad ballad of love lost and loneliness. That’s not what this song is. The protagonist actually welcomes it as an inevitable part of life. In fact, heartbreak seems to be a human phenomenon that’s unavoidable: “If I could forget you, I’d try/If I could replace you, I’d try/If I could erase you, I’d try/Hello heartbreak, hi.” This song’s upbeat tempo suggests that heartbreak is a companion we can learn to live with – ideally a quiet companion on our life’s journey: “Hello heartbreak, hi/You’re always at my side/Don’t say a word/Don’t say a word/Don’t say a word this time.”
When You Go: This is a beautiful ballad, one of my favorite songs on the album. It opens with some melodic, creative vocoder riffs, followed by a tender story of how the protagonist feels whenever her lover leaves: “I just wanna lie awake, hear the sound the night makes with you/I just wanna lie awake, watch the way the darkness breaks with you.” She sings these lines with a sultry, longing voice. I love this song!
Mistakes: This intriguing song, which closes the album, is a lover’s lament for playing it too safe and now regretting not taking more chances. “I should have made more mistakes/I should have followed you home/I should have made more mistakes/I always wait for a green light to change.” As the protagonist gets older, she senses that time is starting to run out and opportunities for love are fewer and farther between: “The stars are getting older and the storms are getting closer.” Finally, she comments on the inherent uncertainty of life, which has many unexpected turns: “In the blink of an eye, it could all fall away/In the blink of an eye, it could fall into place.”
Heartbreak Hi is a very impressive start for Avec Sans, musically and lyrically. I can’t wait to see where they go from here!