ALBUM REVIEW: Various Artists – After Dark 2

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ARTIST Various Artists

ALBUM After Dark 2

LABEL Italians Do It Better

RELEASE DATE 17.5.2013

8.6 | 10

Johnny Jewel is one of the hardest working men in music… And no one knows it. The mastermind behind Chromatics, Glass Candy, and Symmetry, Jewel has crafted a sound solely unique to him and his band of collaborators. On 2012’s Kill For Love, the fantastic Chromatics album, he hit new heights in crafting an album full of sleek electro-pop hits as well as sonic landscapes ripe with visual imagery. For 2013’s After Dark 2, he and his Italians Do It Better labelmates pick up where Chromatics left off to create an italo-disco masterpiece, made that much more impressive due to the wide range of collaborators whose music all fits the same musical theme.

Chromatics and Glass Candy inhabit nearly half of the track list, and for good reason. Ida No and Ruth Radelet have shown themselves to be worthy front women to the sonic backdrops carved out by Jewel. The opening “Warm In The Winter” was first released as a single in 2011 and serves as a wonderful introduction to those unfamiliar with the label. Over shimmering synthesizers Ida No puts her audience in the spotlight, professing her uncompromising love, in a wonderfully hazy talking and singing voice. Chromatics’ contributions are just as fantastic, with “Looking For Love” inhabiting the same space as their contribution to the 2007 original, “Killing Spree,” while “Cherry” is by far the closest thing to Top 40 Chromatics will ever get. The guitar riff sets the tone, and will be drilled into your head for days on end.

While we knew what to expect from Chromatics and Glass Candy, the compilation really stands out courtesy of the supporting cast. Appaloosa shows themselves to be stars-in-the-making on their two near-flaw free dance pop tracks, most notably on “Fill the Blanks,” and Twisted Wires provide one of the best songs here in the form of “Half Lives.” The latter is the type of song one would expect Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive to listen to if he ever set foot into a club.

For the second time in as many compilations, Farah’s offering is the least likely to warrant multiple spins, with nothing she sings sounding all too important to anyone, but mostly her. With a little better sales pitch, perhaps “Into Eternity” wouldn’t fall flat. But that’s one small hiccup in an otherwise flawless compilation from one of the best indie dance labels, perhaps only second to DFA. After Dark 2 does not hide in the shadow of its 2007 predecessor. Rather it stands firmly on its own two feet, showing us that in the six years since that release, the label’s vision has only grown clearer and more likely to get your ass on the dance floor.

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