Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Artificial Eye’s Last Man Standing combines emotive vocals, lyrics that range across the breadth of human experiences and an entertaining mix of strong melodies played on ear-catching synths, percussion that has variety and interest and layers of sound that build and grow together to produce an enjoyable sonic tapestry over which the stories of the songs can be told. Here are four major reasons why I really enjoyed the album.
I find myself drawn in by the way that Artificial Eye uses his voice on the album. Sometimes his vocals have a strong flavour of New Wave synth pop and at others they possess a rocking energy. The way that he can vary his vocals to fit the emotional tenor of each song allows Artificial Eye the ability to explore their stories fully and expressively.
The lyrics on Last Man Standing are another strong element of the album. They are well-constructed and they take the listener on a journey through love, loss, obsession, pain and hope. They paint strong pictures in each song and certainly kept me engaged and wanting to listen more, to hear the next tale being told.
Melodic writing is another forte for Artificial Eye. He creates clear, strong melodies in both his vocals and in the lead synth segments. They are the sort of melodies that work to further the songs, adding more auditory interest and matching the emotional content of each song well. The choices of synths also help contribute to the strength of the melodies as they enhance the emotional expression in them.
The complexity of the synth parts on Last Man Standing has a proggy sensibility that keeps them interesting and grabbing. I am enamoured of the way in which Artificial Eye weaves all of the parts together and still produces a cohesive whole which is sonically rich and pleasing to hear.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
The following analyses are in-depth looks at my favorite tracks off of the album.
Track 1: "Beyond the Sky"
“Beyond the Sky” begins with a deep, slowly descending bass line and a rather tense-feeling high synth drifting over top of the bass along with a whisper of cymbals. A stuttering beat moves in along with warm, delicate synths that have a piping sound as they move with shifting, warm synth chords that flow out behind them over that stuttering beat.
The lead synth’s gentle sounds carry an uplifting melody that skims along in an enjoyable way. The beat accelerates, still smooth and easy, as the high synth sings out over the flow of the drums underneath it. There’s a slower, more stuttering section with the delicate high synth chiming over the beat underneath as the drums cascade. The track return again to that warm, rising and positive melody before ending.
Track 3: "Welcome to My Sanctuary"
The sound of sirens and gentle, almost reverent synth notes drift out as “Welcome to my Sanctuary” opens. A throbbing beat and deep bass double with a pattern of heavy, low synth sounds that have a slightly rough edge and a shadowy feeling. as distorting shivers of synth sound move behind the dark, also shadowed vocals. I am drawn to the minor and twisting vocal melody as brighter synths twine above the music, wandering and wriggling through it.
A minor key synth pattern also snakes through as that beat keeps pulsing onward and flashes of medium synth stab out into the track along with some evil laughter. I like the contrast of the warm chorus with the darker elements of the track. There’s a break to swelling and gentle sounds as a respite from the darkness. After a return to the main melody, a computerized sounding lead wends through the track and the deep bass is also joined by intertwining, dissonant sounds.
Dangerous desire and twisted love fill the words of this song. There is hunger and desire as the song opens with the narrator seeing the song’s subject across the dance floor. He asks, “Tell me of your wildest dreams, let's play them out like a movie scene.” He adds that “he’s the man you see in shadows at night” so the song’s subject won’t make it home until morning.
This is a dark and hungry desire as expressed in the words, “When I find you, you know that you won't run. You’ll be desperately clawing, but you will not find the gun.” He invites our song’s subject to enter his “hall of mirrors” and get lost forever. I enjoy the contrast between being entrapped and unable to escape from a “sanctuary” which denotes safety.
A deeply chilling feeling comes from the line, “In this glass prison of my design, you'll stay like a frozen pantomime.” Our narrator asks her to become his muse and adds disturbingly, “What’s the matter, doll? Did you feel a chill?”
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Dark desire pours from the lines, “From my prison, you’ll never break free 'cause this cold heart needs you here with me.” This is obsession at its darkest as he proclaims, “You see, I'm the phantom and you're my star, I always knew we'd come this far.” He tells his captive that if she can “tame this savage heart” she will feel her release.
Track 4: "Last Man Standing"
“Last Man Standing” kicks off with a radio announcer’s voice and a tight tense wash of sound that’s joined by an uneven pulsation of bass and drums along with a doubled synth par. The way that the vocal melody also breaks and stutters was enjoyable for me as tense, tightly wound medium-high synth chords move under the lead melody.
The lead slips along with a shadowy twist, adding to the feeling of rush and rage that are conveyed by the lyrics. All of the musical elements emphasize the emotions expressed in the song as the big drums keep bursting through while high synths move wildly in the background. A flow of synths, warmer and more relaxed, floats through while quick, tense arpeggios trickle softly in the background.
The perspective of a stressed out, angry product of the society in which we live is the basis of this song. The narrator is a driven man as he heads off to work, he has to “grab my coffee whilst ironing my shirt.” On top of all of this, he’s got a wristband that “keeps my score” and makes him keep on working although it “leaves me sore.”
Life is all about getting to and staying at the top for this guy. He is “born to be on the top” and he’ll stop for nothing and see “no beauty…no grace” because “I got no time, in the arms race.” Everyone is just in his way. He’s late and traffic is thick so “someone will die with service this bad.” He already knows that his, “boss will be on my ass today, might as well blow it all away.”
There’s a twist in this tale as a news item informs him that, “The stock market's in flames as the London exchange reaches ground.” There’s a poignancy in the line “the bonds that unite us were sold only to ignite us, we were all in, who could win?” Our poor beleaguered narrator asks plaintively, “Guess this means an extended holiday What will I even do with all this free time?”
Track 6: "Let's Get Pretending"
A soft and delicate synth with a tremulous quality moves over rising chords as “Let’s Get Pretending” comes to life. The chords flash into the track to add more brightness under the delicate notes above them. A steady, strong beat moves under the ballad-like vocals that caress the ears quite pleasingly. The steady pulsing of bright synths doubles with the drum and bass pulse as high vocal drifts of sound flicker through the song.
A shifting landscape of synth chords glows over the melancholy of the track while the drum pulse moves the track forward. The vocals have a well-done New Wave feeling to them. The synths twist with their slight edge as now the lead synth sings out a sadness filled melody over the flow underneath it.
A relationship that has hidden fractures and depths to it, fractures that aren’t being acknowledged is at the heart of this song. The narrator talks about getting to pretending that “everything’s okay…that love is in our eyes.”
There is hope and loss mingled in the chorus as the narrator states, “One day we may be free and time is all we need” which is contrasted with a sense of pain in the words, “As long as the cut still bleeds, we can't live forever with heaviness in our hearts.”
Now the lyrics talk of pretence when it comes to shaking off fears and pushing down anger until “there's nothing left to hide.” A raw feeling of loss pours from the words, “I really thought we'd be together. We made plans stretching to forever.”
Regret also comes through in the verse, “You said: love's unending, love conquers all but you declared this one total war.” The song ends in wistfulness with the line, “I hope you know it was never only pretend.”
Track 8: "Flying (By the Seat of Your Pants)"
“Flying (By the Seat of Your Pants)” charges into life as rapid drums and a hard-edged synth pulse are joined by a shimmering lead synth singing out an uplifting and energetic melody. Computerized synth sounds leap upwards and the quick beat bursts and charges on. I am quite enamoured of the singing leads as it flies out with real propulsion over the relentless beat, truly adding to the sensation of flying.
There’s a bending, climbing synth solo that soars as it speeds by before the track breaks into a smooth, yet stuttering drum beat along with gentler synths. The chip tune sound adds a flying shooter video game quality to the music as the bright, howling lead synth carries a positive melodic line that leaps and zigzags as the beat launches us forward through the blue before soft choral synths also rise in the background and the track fades out on big chords.
Artificial Eye creates a rich, textured and energetic journey for the ears and the mind on Last Man Standing. The way he weaves the melodic, harmonic and lyrical content together unfolds many stories and explores a lot of emotional territory in a ear-pleasing way.