Music Review: electron love theory

A little while ago, I received a press kit from Jeff at electron love theory (yup, all lowercase), a Seattle-based band featuring songwriter/producer Jeff Leisawitz, Gaetana Gravellese (and others on vocals), drummer Moses Gershbein, and a host of other studio vocalists. They’re pitched as a moody electronic pop band with haunting vocals and funky rhythms.
From their website:

electron love theory was recently named ‘best independent electronic artist in the world’ on artistdirect.com by an international audience of fans and music industry types.

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They’ve made a lot of appearances in popular media as well:

electron love theory has placed music in numerous television, film and corporate media projects. clients include MTV, VH1, Fox Sports Net, Standard Films, Ogilvy, Real Networks, Microsoft and many others.

I also liked them enough to mention them on my website previously, though I only had access to a few of their songs at the time. With this new CD, Colors Of The Galaxy (Electron Records), I got to listen to a good sampling of their music. So why not write a review?
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Well, for starters, the samples I first received (“Perfect Lie”, “In Your Galaxy”, and “My Own Worst Enemy”) represent a good cross-sampling of the whole CD. Unfortunately, I only really listened to the first song on the list before snapping them up and requesting a CD — that’s my fault, for jumping the gun.
Don’t get me wrong, the music is fine, well produced, and generally fun to listen to. The problem appears to be some kind of internal consistency to the genre of “moody electronic pop band”, or rather, the lack of. I was expecting the bulk of the CD to be heavy on the electronic/synth, and more downtempo, chillout in style, with some moody vocals. This was not entirely the case.
There appear to be 5 distinct categories of music on this album:

  • hypnotic synth-based pop
  • slow brooding funk
  • poppy, funky, flirty techno new country
  • classical style country/folk
  • teenage pop divas

Of the “hypnotic synth-based pop songs”, it’s safe to say there’s three of these. You’ve got the song which I based my initial impressions upon, “The Perfect Lie”. This is the expected dark, brooding, techno-synth we all know and love. Perfectly acceptable, alternative, and well done. Also in this category is the mysteriously named “Endlessly (Version 2)”, and the slightly funky “Uptown”. Imagine, if you will, a less-energetic Basement Jaxx.
From there we transition into slow brooding funk (not something you normally associate with funk). “Into The Moonlight” has the classic electric backing bass associated with late night television cop dramas, and some good brooding vocals (by Gaetana Gravellese), and it sounds distantly like a cover of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle”.
To sharply contrast the brooding techno is more of a sassy, funky new country sound. “Puzzle” and “In Your Galaxy” start off in the right direction, but quickly evoke the ghosts of Sheryl Crow and Victoria Williams. The techno fades into the distant background, leaving the vocals to overpower the songs. By the time “Your Love Is Bringing Me Down” comes around, we’ve switched to almost pure folk music, with guitar and tinny backing cymbal brushes, with no techno influences (save the occasional synthetic tom-tom).
Most of the CD contains music that suggests the typical sounding pop divas that teenage girls listen to. This isn’t an insult, but rather an acute observation on some of the most successful music being produced these days. And ELT seems to be aware of it:

with comparisons to artists as diverse as dido, morcheeba, portishead, everything but the girl, frou frou, alanis and gus gus, the theory’s musical fusion of electronica, pop, rock and groove reflects the hope, pain, love and sadness of the modern world. crafted with pop smart hooks, clever songwriting and heartfelt lyrics, these songs stick in your head and resonate in your heart from the very first spin.

‘Nuff said — “pop smart hooks” reflecting the “hope, pain, love and sadness of the modern world”. Very true. “Stirring Worlds”, and “Change Direction” really play to that demographic. I’m pretty sure “Come A Little Closer” was used on an episode of Dawson’s Creek, or possibly Judging Amy.
Honestly, much of the CD was not for me, but it’s all good. At some point, all the techno influence gets stripped out, leaving mostly just the teenage pop behind. I was expecting more of the techno/synth stuff, especially since their press release stated that “with the release of ‘colors of the galaxy’ electron love theory gets back to its roots of hypnotic synth-based pop songs”. But if you’re looking for a soundtrack to your female sophomore college lifestyle, this is easily one of the bands you should load on your iPod.