Negative Gain Productions
Almost impossibly hot on the heels of the excellent Isolator, Edmonton’s Cygnets have a brand new album in the form of Sleepwalkers, their first for Negative Gain Productions. Like its recent predecessor, the LP lives and dies by its balance of energetic new romantic sounds and the darker strains of synthpop, toeing the edge of high drama without tumbling over into the the ludicrous or maudlin. The differences between the two records are subtle but present: where the latter gave a broader vision of Cygnets as a band, the former focuses most of its energy on the dancefloor and one specific route to it.
Cygnets are well-equipped for the latter: anyone wanting a primer on how to assemble a good and proper new wave club song would do well to
pay attention to the album’s title track. “Sleepwalkers” builds perfectly from its orchestral opening through to a simple understated verse that blows up into a massive and insanely catchy chorus, substantial but still light and effortless enough to make its five and a half minutes feel half as long. While the arrangement’s round, measured synth programming and light touches of guitar are fine on their own, you can’t really understate how much vocalist Logan Turner brings to the table: it takes a lot to make a line like “I know you have a boyfriend/And I fucking hate your boyfriend” come across, but Turner has a knack for the emotional that serves the band in good stead. Numbers like the sprightly “Indoctrinate Me” and the chunky guitar-led “Data Ghosts” make full use of him and are all the better for it, sincere for all their melodrama.
Noticeably, Cygnets also seem to be making more moves towards referencing New Order in their sound, a mildly puzzling move considering the distinct sound they’ve been carving out for themselves up ’til this point. “Drøm 4” and “Born in Vain” aren’t any worse for referencing Manchester’s finest at various points (“Drøm 4” specifically might be the best track on the record with its desperate vocal, sharp keyboard lead and amazing hup-hup breakdown), it’s more that the band doesn’t seem to have anything to gain from inviting the inevitable comparisons that come from pastiche; Cygnets stand exceptionally well on their own creatively, and despite being well executed the NO references take some of the shine off the band when they pop up.
Inasmuch as many people never make the distinction, Cygnets have a grasp on what good pop music is and what good dance music is and how
to make songs that work well as both. While I think Isolator is a better calling card when it comes to the band’s potential, a solid LP of numbers that work in the club might be just the thing for a band trying to break through to a wider audience. There’s plenty enough to enjoy here from a Canadian act who aren’t wasting any of the momentum they’ve got going.