Local Love: Promenade
The electronica world in Houston is an always growing community. In the past year we’ve seen it add at least five new acts, and the bulk of those could probably tour tomorrow. Some have already toured, but still; that’s an impressive number. Sure, there are plenty of other genres that have added much more than that amount; but if you were unaware, Houston has a very strong electronic scene. When John from New York City Queens told me that he had started a side project called Promenade with Andres Soler, I wasn’t surprised. When I actually heard how strong of a project it is, I also wasn’t surprised. The synth pop duo makes the kind of tunes that remind you of that time in the late eighties when everything with analog synths coming out of Europe was pure gold. The funny thing is, this EP is pretty much just that, pure gold. From start to finish you find yourself wanting more while getting into the pop overtones and the hook filled notes with each second that each song plays.
Things kick off on “Falling,” with a basic drum beat that gets met with a synthy guitar and a secondary beat that’s as catchy as it gets. Thumpy bass glides along on the track while Stephens vocals come in with a distorted effect that reminds me of early songs from The Strokes. The melody on the song is hard to turn away from while it grabs your attention like love at first sight. The chorus plays with a breathy vocal track before guitars come in and create a lush and powerfully catchy tune. Sometimes a secondary spoken vocal track comes in while the vocals also get doubled, further taking you into this hook heavy world before the electronics take over and add depth and shape. This is followed up by a dual beat heavy and moody synth sound on “Everything At Once.” Stephens has these ultra pop dance vocals that make you want to get out under a mirrorball as fast as possible. Though the synths in the background are a little dark, the beat and the vocals tell a different story. Straight vocal tracks from Soler come in with effect heavy vocals from Stephens to craft a perfect mix.
Around the third song, another pop heavy gem, “Windowsill;” the band puts emotion in the lyrics while keeping things on the dancey level. There’s a key sound that immediately takes you to the dance floor, while there are synths in the background that keep the song on track. The duo mixes the rhythm while adding multiple vocal tracks with ease, and set themselves apart from what you’re used to hearing in the genre. There’s a craftsmanship and depth here that doesn’t come off as fraudulent or needy; but rather something that pumps through these two’s veins. The way in which the vocals are swapped in and out like a four year old swaps out LEGO pieces is impressive without deterring from the intent of the song. The final song, “aneasyexplanation,” is the most catchy of the four. Stephens comes in with a sweetly voiced vocal that has an echo effect on it that makes the notes stick in your head like first grade math. The synths have an upwards inflection that you can’t forget, while the backing beats are like claps of approval. By the time that Kam Franklin comes in behind a guitar that sounds like it was plucked from a song by the Cure; you should be invested in the tune. Franklin adds a breathy vocal track while going loud and proud astray from what you’re probably used to in songs from The Suffers. The two together create a magic that’s unmistakable, and leave you with the desire to continuously hit the repeat button.
Though just four songs, Promenade has done something here that’s almost implausible for most acts…they craft a near perfect album. When you look across the crowded landscape of dance pop songs, it seems almost as if that task is impossible. But put in the hands of these two, it’s not only possible, but they set the bar high enough that almost anyone else in the genre would be foolish to attempt to top them. You can get your hands on the cassette version of these songs when Promenade plays their EP release show at Fitzgerald’s on Friday July 31st. The all ages show will also feature performances from Bang Bangz and Josiah Gabriel, with doors at 8:00 and a $5.00 cover.