Sonic Space: Real Lies

By Maya Poddar, The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 10/19/15 7:16am

Hailing from North London, Real Lies is a three-piece electropop outfit that challenges the conventional definitions of the genre. The synths are there, the energy is there, but very little of the infectious bubbliness that marks the modern electropop album is present in their debut album, “Real Life” (2015).

Real Life has taken the bones of British electronic music and run them through a hazy, rave-infused processor. The album is almost equal parts manic party night and melancholy morning-afters with a healthy helping of ’90s-influenced sounds. The opening track, “Blackmarket Blues,” straddles the line with its fuzzed out chorus and intricate musical backdrop.

“Dab Housing” opens with an important question: “What’s the European reggae scene like compared to the Jamaican reggae scene?” The question is answered with an electronic warble. Like much of the album, the track seems designed in parts, which don’t always form a cohesive whole.

“Real Life” doesn’t fully avoid the pitfalls of reimaging the ’90s. Some of the tracks seem torn asunder by their desire to exist in both 2015 and 1995. The trio is often unable to commit to a sound within a track. The issue lies more with the strange spoken-word lyrics than the actual music. The muttered words that stand in for lyrics for most of “Naked Ambition” sound more like a half-finished thinkpiece than anything else. It detracts from the vaguely ethereal synth tracks in a way that makes the song disjointed and awkward.

“Real Life” excels when in more fully embraces the ’90s aesthetic. “Seven Sister,” “One Club Town” and “World Peace” aren’t copycat ’90s songs, but they have a more positive and energetic vibe that perks up the album. They’re just more fun to listen to. “Seven Sister” might have been my favorite track if Real Lies hadn’t given into their need to put spoken lyrics into the fray. The chorus is peppy, and the backtrack is lively, but alas, those damn semi-chanted lyrics.

Thankfully, the band eschews the spoken word on “World Peace,” which is my favorite track on the album. It’s not the cleanest production. In fact, the track is a little messy with strangely overlapping rhythms and lyrics that sometimes get a bit lost, but the overall effect is invigorating. It is, in my opinion, the least overthought of the tracks on “Real Life” and that makes it the best.

I like Real Lies, and I look forward to their next album, but their debut effort is clearly a debut. It’s fun and attempts to push boundaries and incorporate the ’90s aesthetic into modern British electro-pop, but at many points, the album gets too involved in itself. The trio needs to relax.

Maya Poddar, The Dartmouth Senior Staff