I know what to expect when I see the words PC Music, and Danny L Harle has delivered on these expectations.
But what I didn’t expect with Ashes of Love is that despite the sickly-sweet, fluorescent synths, it’s actually a surprisingly effective pop song. And the fact that it is a pretty conventional pop song might be seen as a demerit. Given that this is a PC Music song, the expectation is that it should be either extremely challenging, and/or utterly bonkers.
But if they started off pushing the boundaries, they’ve come around full circle here. Instead, we’ve been left with an end product that’s good for the sake of being good. While other acts in the PC Music milieu, namely SOPHIE and Hannah Diamond, more overtly choose to confound and subvert, Ashes of Love simply appropriates that inimitable sonic palette to craft something that’s quite familiar. And for a group of producers that have staked their name on calculation and irony, something unexpected has happened – they have made a legitimately great, irony-free piece of pop brilliance.
Or maybe I’m overcomplicating things. Guest vocalist Caroline Polachek of Chairlift fame provides a beautifully melodic and polished vocal performance that holds its own against the cartoonish artifice shimmering behind her. It’s bright and cheery enough to match the playful production and high-pitched synth stabs, but sincere and emotive enough to cut through all of those stylistic excesses. Chairlift themselves have a similarly polished, hyper-modern sound, so enlisting her to write and perform vocals on this song was probably no accident.
To recap, London-based record label PC Music have been making waves in the music scene, espousing a signature sound that embraces the cheesy, heavily synthesised excesses of bubblegum pop, albeit dialed up to absurd extremes. It’s polarised listeners, it’s fascinated them, or it’s even made them laugh. Pitchfork even wrote a manual on just how exactly you’re supposed to handle the whole phenomenon.
Personally, it’s left me wondering how much of it was intended as some kind of sneaky, irony-laden satire, or whether it was supposed to be some experimental take on pop music, designed to challenge our conception of the entire genre. At this rate, it’s probably a bit of both.
Hometown: London, England.
Sounds like: SOPHIE, Hannah Diamond, Chairlift
Say what? Following in the footsteps of other big name pop acts (eg. Charli XCX) getting on the PC Music hype train, Carly Rae Jepsen has revealed she too has recorded a collaboration with Harle. Dis gon be gud.
Over and out, Darren.