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A superb album

Elkland - Golden
(Columbia Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 14, 2005

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Anyone who took in Erasure's 2005 tour (and got there early) caught a glimpse of Elkland, New York's latest synth-pop sensations who boast the slogans "There Is No Hip" and "There Is No Scene." It was impossible not to get up and dance to such delightful sounds, and for those who looked foolish in the process, at least the band itself doesn't expect any "too cool for school" behavior or hipster mentality. But even in the foursome's quest to not be bogged down with labels, they've crafted an incredibly opulent outpouring that could very well become a classic under its sub-genre right, alongside lauded works by New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode and even Bjork.
Expect the dozen cuts on Elkland's debut disc to encompass all of those influences and also find favor with fans of Erasure, Human League and Pet Shop Boys (minus the campy attitude and flamboyance). Almost ever song, if not the entire album, could find its way onto radio, yet each is still decidedly artistic and refuses to water itself down in formula. Take for instance the opener "Put Your Hand Over Mine," which dips between sinister sounding keyboards and jubilant programming explosions on top of Jon Pierce's Bernard Sumner inspired vocals. The track is easily better than much of the newest New Order record and sets the stage for other gleeful nuggets like the pogo stick power of "Apart" and the hyperactive trance of "It's Not Your Fault." "I Never" unfolds at snail's pace in comparison, but develops with an ominous build slightly reminiscent of The Cure's "Pictures Of You."
Anyone familiar with underground 90s electronic act Joy Electric will be able to glean similarities throughout "Without You" and "I Need You Tonight." (Interestingly enough that group's Melody album was one of the first Pierce ever purchased). In the case of "Talking on the Phone," expect to hear shimmering keyboards over glorious melodies suitable for a late night/early morning chill out session. The venture wraps up on an even more serene note thanks to "We Share a Heart," a calming electronic ballad during which the phrases "Here we stand in love, here we stand in fire/ We share a heart, there is one pulse" are repeated in mantra-like movements. It's a soothing end to a superb album representing all that's right within the modern spectrum of pop, dance, alternative or whatever else one wants to call it.

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