Review: Data Romance

After an EP released in 2011 and a single following late last year, the boy/girl band Data Romance now emerge with their first full-length release, Other.

The album is a sleek debut from the Vancouver duo, filled with slow, slinky electro-pop. The ambient sound created by the combination of Amy Kirkpatrick’s vocals and Ajay Bhattacharyya’s production captures something of Metric circa Old World Underground, Björk circa Vespertine, and even fellow Canadian (and extreme sidebang enthusiast) Valerie Anne Poxleitner of Lights.

While pretty at times, the best moments are when Kirkpatrick’s voice takes a back seat to Bhattacharyya’s beats. This isn’t a judgement about the quality of her voice, but rather an observation of their strengths. “Something to Me” and the title track “Others” are among the album’s best, and on them Kirkpatrick’s vocals feel like a means rather than an end in themselves. She fills the voids in the production and complements the sound in the right ways rather than trying to hold the focus of the song herself.

If Other were a person, it would be the quiet wallflower friend rather than the one always yelling and seeking attention. The duo appears to understand the potential—and maybe even the market—for background music, crafting an album with enough intriguing details in the layers of sound to catch the listener’s attention, but never trying to command or control a whole room. The album is strong enough to create a head bob, but only allowing a small probability that someone will turn their head to ask what’s playing from the speakers.

“You come with too many politics,” sings Kirkpatrick in “Can’t Keep Your Mind Off”—perhaps a commentary on other music wanting to say more than it actually does. By contrast, Other doesn’t appear to say much, because it does not want to say much. The album succeeds by sticking to the middle ground, the ground of nothing more than pleasant music. Even though an astute listener could find meaning in the lyrics if they really wanted to, the artists don’t seem to care whether the listener does or not.

While Other offers more filler than the average listener would like, and is sometimes too broody for its own good, Data Romance knows their formula and sound well enough to tackle a full-length album with relative ease, simple in its premise and execution. The name “Data Romance” is taken as literally as possible: it’s a synth/data album meant for lovers of romance. The songs seem more fitting to bounce off the walls of a tiny bedroom than to play at a large party. It’s a micro-niche that probably won’t sell out arenas—but that doesn’t seem necessary if the music only wants to be played for two. MMM

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