The word pop means different things to different people. Some believe that as soon as your music, whatever genre it is, goes mainstream and hits the charts it automatically becomes ‘pop’. Then there are those who see pop as a dirty word, a word that automatically means the artist has sold out and is aiming for the lowest common denominator. But it’s actually a lot simpler: there’s good pop (MJ, ABBA, Blondie) and bad pop (Ant & Dec, Zig & Zag, R Kelly).
Tensnake’s debut album ‘Glow’ is a pop record at its core – there is no doubt. It’s an ambitious debut album that sees the Hamburg house producer challenge himself to make something that’ll stand the test of time. The great thing about any really good pop record is the variety on offer and that’s where ‘Glow’ shines. Not only do you get a variety of sub-genres – from disco to house to funk – there’s also a wealth of collaborations on offer, too, including Jacques Lu Cont, Nile Rodgers, MNEK and Fiora.
The album’s opening tracks showcase Niemerski’s ability to craft uplifting pop tracks, none more so than his current single ‘Love Sublime’ which is flanked by ‘First Song’, a progressive, looping opener set against scattered percussion and MNEK’s crooning vocals, then there’s ‘Pressure’, which is one of the album’s highlights; a camp-as-you-like glam-rock stomper in the vein of the Scissor Sisters. Moving swiftly on, Niemerski hits you with yet another funked-out wonder ‘Feel Love’, which sees Tensnake collaborate with pop-producer-god Jacques Lu Cont. It’s quite the start. And it gets better, ‘Ten Minutes‘ is one the album’s interludes, and sees Niemerski basically take the piss out of his own album as a female vocalist nonchalantly declares: “I’ve been listening for ten minutes already to this Tensnake shit. What the fuck are you guys talking about. I know, but whatever, I don’t need any twinkly, 80s, c’mon-lets-where-a-tank-top-shit-fucking-rah-rah-rah-shit. I just want something hard, I just want big bass like, wah-wah-wah, like dubstep, like club step, like electro – you know”.
Other highlights include ‘Take Your Time‘ which blends r’n’b vocals with smokey basslines and a lovely pan-pipe solo. Tensnake’s pursuit of the perfect pop track continues as he continues to look to the past for inspiration, with ‘Selfish‘ bordering on pastiche but it’s so well done it’s hard to resist its Boys 2 Men charm. Towards the second half of the album Niemerski lets the pop reins go a bit, and you’re treated to some more clubbier disco tracks including ‘Good Enough To Keep‘ which nails that tropical disco sound everyone has been trying to perfect over the last few years. Throw in Nile Rodgers on guitar, and a stunning lead vocal from Fiora, and it’s almost certainly going to soundtrack your summer. Elsewhere you’re treated to some more fringe influence including an avant-guard dubstep track in the form of ‘Holla‘ – but it’s never enough to throw the album out of its groove. It’s not until you get to track 12 that you hit the first proper Tensnake house track, ‘See Right Through‘, which offers up tribal rhythms over Fiora’s elegant vocals, once again. She actually pops up on no less than 6 of the album’s 16 tracks, and ends up being like an old friend, always on hand to pick you up when needed. As the album heads toward the end, Tensnake begins to show-off his famed house side with more club-based cuts including ‘No Relief‘, and ‘58 BPM‘ both of which stand out on a first listen.
Tensnake’s debut album ticks almost all the boxes, there’s at least 4 or 5 songs that could easily make the grade as full-blown singles – and the collaborations work just as well individually as they do as a group. It’s razor-sharp pop without any of the downsides, and these sorts of albums only come around once in a blue moon, the last one we can remember was ‘Destry Rock ‘n’ Roll’ by Mylo. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait 10 years to hear the follow-up. Essentially, Tensnake could have easily made a straight-up house album and I’m sure that would have been quite nice, but with ‘Glow‘ you’ve got something so much more: it’s fantastically over-the-top in places and at no point does it sound forced – it simply sounds like a man having fun.
HBF Rating 5/5
Taken from the debut album ‘Glow’, out from March 7th (UK March 10th / USA March 11th). Pre-order a signed copy now: http://po.st/GlowShop
Download another track ‘No Relief’ for free here: http://po.st/NORELIEF