Depeche Mode-Memento Mori, released March 24th, 2023
This has ended up being my current favorite album of 2023. There is a part of me that likes to have newer artists at the top, or maybe I just get more excited about fresh acts and they end up there. Either way, if it’s my favorite album of the year so far. There’s nothing I can do about that.
Obviously influenced by the death of Andy Fletcher, the band is now a duo. Written by Gore, Gahan, and some co-writes with Richard Butler of Psych Furs. I think this is the best album since Ultra. I like a lot of the stuff from the last 20 years, but they just kind of went for a bit of the classic sound here, but of their age. The synths on this album are really the stars—just classic synths, and a lot of them. Sometimes they remind me of Erasure, though the vibe is not that. Even the song I thought was a dud, “Soul With Me,” has grown on me. Every other song on here is as well-crafted, genuine, and enjoyable as can be. I have listened to this album dozens of times since March, and it is now just embedded in my head as classic Depeche Mode. My favorites on here have changed and changed back, but “Wagging Tongue” is probably the top track on here. The emotion of it, the lyrics “just to watch another angel die”, the harmonies, and the change in mood in tones—plus the synths on here just connect with my happy chemical in my brain. Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Gary Numan, and now Depeche Mode have put out albums recently that rank among their best. Let’s hope The Cure can continue that streak.
Braids-Euphoric Recall: Released April 28th
This album is more mellow than the last but stunning in its subtleties. The songs don’t pop out at you, but they slowly dig in, and it’s not a hard listen. I looked up a review of the last album of theirs that I did, and I just kind of wrote it off. Even in just the past few years, I have found myself more drawn to off-kilter music, ambient, and soundscape in influence, while maintaining a pop sense-ability. This album sums up a lot of those wants.
I have been listening to this a lot since it came out, and it has really connected to the point where I truly cannot wait to listen to some of it again. They do mess with some glitchy stuff along the way, but it is sparsely used as an enhancement rather than as a disruptor. I’m not sure the last time I put an eight minute song on repeat, but I have with the opening track “Supernova” It’s hard to describe, it goes vocally in so many different ways. It’s definitely Laurie Anderson-influenced—it’s just so affecting. And the lyrics. When she sings, “This depth of darkness, unknown, the dark web Are children sold there to friends. Will orange man save your soul there Demolish the Dems and the Hollywood stars” it’s…affecting. So much is happening here. It’s one of those songs you want to force people to get, understand, and connect with.
After this are shorter songs that have oddities and beautiful sounds that connect enough just inside the norm to be actual pop songs. Then come a few songs that are a bit more classical, poetic, Bjork-ish, musical-like out of a musical. And I enjoy those a lot also, but they don’t have the same connection for me as the first song and the last two. Those last two include Retriever,” a gorgeous nine minute piece that is somehow a pop song with all of this gorgeous electronica fluttering around Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s vocals. The album ends with an ambient piece with layered vocals called “Euphoric Recall” that blends layers and elements of the songs we just listened to on the album. It sounds like a novelty, I know, but I actually put that on repeat also. Let me know what you think. I always like to know if other people connect in the same way on things like this.