Album Review: Beat Connection – The Palace Garden




It’s rare to find an electronic indie-pop dance band in 2012 that understands restraint when it comes to vocal effects. M83 toes the delicate line between tasteful and heavy-handed when it comes to vocal reverb and filters, but it seems there’s a glut of derivative indie bands taking neo-disco beats and swirling in a heady mix of synthesizers, psychedelic droning, and ethereal vocals. So it’s unbelievably refreshing to listen to the Seattle-based Beat Connection, and their new vocalist, Tom Eddy.

Sounding just a touch like a combination of Chris Martin and Mark Foster, Eddy’s vocals have a crystal clarity on “The Palace Garden”, the catchy title track from Beat Connection’s debut LP. His vocals would be merely an aesthetic nicety if it weren’t for the creativity and craft of the group’s main songwriters, Jordan Koplowitz and Reed Juenger. They begin The Palace Garden with a purely instrumental and drum-free opening track, “New Criteria”, showing off their considerable versatility with synthesizers and minimalist patterns, presenting a bright, cheery major key ostinato that becomes the background music for the title track’s dance party.

What works for Beat Connection are the multitude of interesting melodic fragments that make up their tracks, rather than opting for generic washes of synthesizer sound or drones. Thoughtful vocals and melodic variety keep many tracks exciting from beginning to end, and their infectiously dance-friendly tunes like “The Palace Garden” and “Sometimes Wonder” are more uptempo than similar-sounding tunes from Toro y Moi or Neon Indian. Beat Connection is more suited to the party itself than the after-party chillout.

What doesn’t work is the lack of cohesion on this album, which suffers from an overly muddy sound in the middle third of the record on tracks like “Think Feel”. There are a variety of short tracks to provide a unifying thread, but they’re often out of place. The rock-solid melodies and hooks of “The Palace Garden” or the resplendent glory of the closing synths on “Sometimes Wonder” aren’t enough to carry the entire album.

Essential Tracks: “New Criteria/The Palace Garden”