“Surprises” – the New Monarchs
     Tune in right away here, so you don’t miss the ear-catching intro, with its striking juxtaposition of literally offbeat synthesizer lines and wordless, chant-like vocals. That’s quite a way to start a song, and the good news is that this Minneapolis-based electronica duo has yet more up its sleeve, including, of all things, kick-ass guitars.
     I don’t often warm up to electronica precisely because I’m just not an unadulterated beep-and-boop-and-beat fan. (And there’s nothing wrong with those who are, mind you. I just don’t tend to hear the music in it.) But “Surprises” had me sitting up after that introduction, and kept me interested with the minimalist approach the song initially takes with its electronics, the clicky beat and buzzy synthesizer almost melding together, clutter-free, in a sort of secondary introduction. The melody, when the singing starts, proceeds at a much slower pace than the beats, giving Sean Hogan ample chance to show off his scuffed-up tenor, and leads, seamlessly, into a reprise of the chant-like melody of the introduction (starting at 1:06). The song at this point acquires an almost hymn-like force, before sliding into a circular, hypnotic middle section featuring repetitive keyboard lines and keening, breathy vocals.
     And what of the aforementioned guitars? Perhaps these are the surprises of the title. Keep listening, you can’t miss them. Hogan kind of fades behind the blaring screen of sound for a while, but don’t lose track of him, as his unwavering tone is one of the song’s few continual characteristics. “Surprises” is a song from the band’s debut CD, Blueprints, which comes out this week on Soup Bowl Records, also based in Minneapolis. MP3 via Soup Bowl.




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