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Synth-Pop Album Review: "New Life" by Positronic

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

Positronic’s (Michael McDannold) album New Life is shimmering, glowing synth-pop full of great melodies, throbbing beats and a feeling of hope that is sometimes touched with a gentle melancholy. I enjoy the overall emotional tone of the album as well as Positronic’s strong, warm and touching voice and lyrics that connect with me quite well.

The first thing that I want to point out about New Life is McDannold's facility for writing strong melodies. He crafts melodies that can caress, soar or deliver a heart-warming feeling of hope. Both his vocal melodies and his lead synth compositions intertwine well and result in an expressive album.

Michael McDannold’s singing voice is also an important part of why New Life is successful in my view. His voice can sometimes have a deeply emotional throb in it or it can climb and soar to deliver messages of hope and positive forward motion. He uses his range and expression to good effect.

The choice of synths on New Life is also solid. They sometimes shimmer and at others ache but they always match well with the overall tones of the individual songs. I also enjoy how McDannold will add ornaments in the form of bright flashes or bursts of synth to emphasize parts of the songs.

Finally I enjoy his use of beats that propel the music forward and add a solid base to which he can tie all of the other elements to create songs that are cohesive and have a flow to them that is enjoyable.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“World Full of Love” is a song in which I enjoy the mixture of bright synth arpeggios that soar and leap over rumbling bass, a smoothly gliding beat and uplifting vocals. I also enjoy the gliding, shining synth melody which is tinged by melancholy while still being touched by hope.

A relationship slowly falling apart is the basis for this song. The tremble in Michael McDannold's singing matches the feeling of loss in the lines, “So tired, you know how hard I’ve tried. I thought that I did everything right. But what will happen now? Will we survive?”

In spite of the sense of loss, there’s still hope in the words, “I’ll keep reaching for you and I won’t give up now. I’ll keep fighting for us and our world full of love.”

Again the feeling of striving and falling short is reflected in the lyric, “Now it’s come and fallen apart, I thought that you knew you were, oh you were my heart” but ultimately the song concludes, “If we hold on too love, we might just win the prize.”

The way that the gentle, soft synths glow over a sweep of sound underneath on “My Joy” is touching for me especially when they are combined with a rising melody crying out with passion. I also enjoy how the beat pulses easily while the music arcs upwards and caressing vocals move over the shimmering arpeggios and flowing air around them.

This song is a celebration of a deep love. There’s passion in McDannold’s voice as he sings, “When the worries of this life start to drag me down, when it all seems so unfair then I look to you and hope is found.”

The feeling of sheer happiness pours from the chorus in the words, “My joy it always increases, my joy never decreases. I never fall to pieces when I am near your side.”

If we can find someone to deeply love, they can ease tough times. This reflects in the words, “I look to you when the darkness closes in, when I start to lose all hope, when my head is in a spin.”

The final lines are a testament to love, “You are a true love, what a comforter I have in you. You are my beloved, how my strength is renewed in you.”

“When You Fall Down” has a great feeling of energy and motion to it as rapidly swirling synth notes move out over washes of softer sound. There’s a strong vocal delivery and a feeling of propulsive energy to the music. I also enjoy how flashes of shiny synth burst out into the music as the layers of sound all create the impression of sunny lightness.

Accepting change and letting go are the ideas that this song explores. I am drawn to the truth in the lines “Sometimes things won’t work out and don’t go our way, all we can do is tell them goodbye and pray for a better day” and to the idea of impermanence in the words, “When it comes around again, be ready to face the trial.”

A hand is reached out in the words, “Oh when you fall down, upon the ground, I’ll be here for you. When you fall down, about to drown, I’ll be there for you.”

The sense of hope and moving forward comes out of the words, “Time to pick yourself up now, can’t stay allowing in the mire. Tomorrow will be a better day, you know you can reach much higher.”

There is a truly gentle quality to the main melody of “Only You” that fills the song with a positive feeling. The melody is lambent as it moves over the smoothly flowing beat and Michael McDannold’s voice is smooth and deep as it reverberates into the track. There is both yearning and a feeling of possibility in the music as it flows and drifts onward.

There’s a message of loss and renewal as McDannold sings, “Sometimes alone I feel my soul start to slip away and all I can do is hold out for another day” and he adds, “The sun comes up and fills my heart with hope, the wind rushes to meet me and that always helps me cope.”

There’s a sense of yearning in the chorus, “I want to fall in love with you, oh I do. If I could fall in love with you, only you.”

The loss of hope again is palpable in the words, “Without you, I feel my soul start to fall apart and that brings out the loneliness inside my heart” but it returns in the lines. “Then the sun seems bright and makes me wish that you were mine and the wind tells me know it’s only a matter of time.”

“Home Again” starts out with darker synths that play long, slightly rough edged waves which contrast well with another shiny, flickering synth melody. I like how Michael McDannold’s voice limns the lyrics with a dreamy feeling as pulses of synth dance and fly into the music. The beat’s throb was nice here too.

This is a song about starting over while returning to one’s roots. There’s a powerful sense of this in the lines, “I’m going back to the place I left behind, where the sun shines beauty on everything.”

There’s an ache that runs through the lyrics that say, “I dream of going back and being home again. I’ll stake my claim from where I came and I’ll never go away.”

The chorus has an uplifting message in the words, “It’s time to put things right and say hello again to a life I’ve left behind. You have always stayed the same and I am lost without your light, and I’m coming home again.”

“Hold On” creates a soft pool of glowing energy from which gentle notes emerge to intertwine with McDannold’s voice as it slips through the music with another melody that is full of hope and dreams. This song is so gentle and full of love that it warms the heart. All of the bright and delicate synth elements emphasize the overall feeling of this music which is so soothing and full of starry sensations.

This song is a simple plea to a loved one in lines like, “Come to me, let me see you for you, now show me who you are and adds in the chorus, “Hold on, hold on to me, my love. Hold on, let our love be enough.”

There’s a sense of meeting challenges and overcoming them in the lines, “We prove who we are in times like this. You can feel it in your heart and when we kiss” that really is a positive message to take away.

I enjoy how the well crafted melody in “Without You” is surrounded by synths that flow in undulating waves over a steady beat while the vocals fill the track with a sense of loss and that almost fragile melodic line emphasizes the incomprehension of that loss. The song begins to move toward a feeling of acceptance. I also like how the melody of the synths doubles the vocal line.

There’s a feeling of deep loss that permeates this song. The pain is clear in the lines. “How do I move on now? You’ve always been there. How can you leave me now?”

The chorus talks about the emotional ride life can take us on in the words, “My life turns round and round as my emotions go up and down. Someone come and take it all away, I don’t wanna learn to live my life without you.”

The song does end on an upbeat note with the words, “Time to let you go, I’m gonna be okay without you.”

Verdict

New Life combines strong vocals, synth-driven musical energy and a hopeful message that still has room for the idea of yearning and loss in a way that I enjoy. The addition of a strong rhythmic component and quality melodic writing lifts New Life up for me and makes for enjoyable synth-pop listening.

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