Madonna didn’t manage to rouse Popservations from slumber with Rebel Heart. Janet didn’t jumpstart this blog by coming back with Unbreakable. And most recently, the ever-reliable Pet Shop Boys didn’t spur me into action with Super.
Now that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate these albums, or indeed much of pop music released in the intervening months since I last took to long-form prose here. But superstar pop artists don’t really need the boost, and blogging about music I love left me with less time to enjoy it on the most simplest of terms. And with so much new music being released on a near daily basis it’s impossible to keep up — whether critic or fan. (Take a look around, and you’ll notice that I’m not the only music blogger that has stepped away or dialed it way down in the past couple of years.)
So what brings me back today? Well, fittingly, it’s a band that previously cleared the cobwebs here. I first featured STRANGERS in October 2011 via their cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games,” and quickly forged a friendship of sorts from across the pond. More than 20 additional posts followed, continually captivated by these London lads’ dark synthpop.
But the duo went similarly silent since our last check-in circa November 2014. At that point, following a series of free tracks, cover songs, and EPs, David Maddox-Jones and Raife Hacking were focused on readying their debut album. But something wasn’t quite right.
Now after about a year and a half of additional hard work — writing, recording, and mixing — plus a change of name to Born Stranger, the band’s much anticipated full-length, produced and mixed by Yoad Nevo (Pet Shop Boys, Sia, Goldfrapp), is in the offing. First up is their official debut single, “Fire & The Flame.”
“‘Fire & The Flame’ is about the moment you realize you and your childhood sweetheart are over, you’ve grown apart,” Born Stranger says. “It’s got a lot of hope, but there is also a sense of sadness.”
That last sentence is a perfect summation of what has always drawn me to Maddox-Jones and Hacking’s music. When done right, the interplay between what are often considered oppositional feelings can make for truly transcendent pop. With “Fire & The Flame,” Born Stranger has zeroed in on that sometimes elusive spot, marking the creative spark of a fully reborn duo.
Born Stranger – “Fire & The Flame” is out on August 19. A remix by Atom Tree is also forthcoming.