A few years ago the Billboard Top 100 made the decision to include EDM, or electronic dance music, into its calculus. It was a move that positively reflected a clearer picture of popular music in that the EDM audience has always been vast and under-served by the mainstream. Still, there was a major negative in that, since then, when some outlet says something is keyboard-based or keyboard-driven, thoughts immediately race to a specific sound, rhythm, or set of repetitions.
That must have been a bit of a shock to rock, pop, and soul groups who, up to that point, used keys for the multiplicity of tones and colors it could provide. It has almost become a ritual for artists to first need to assert what they are not before they can show off what they are. Ohio’s The Receiver, consisting of brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper, made the decision to shut down the speculation from the start. The first track from their new album All Burn, “Drift,” is a thick strata of vocal harmonies, unadorned by anything else. It’s the simplest of approaches but effectively sets the stage. Even though the recording features real drums and bass among the dominant keyboard lines, the telegram reads that there’s a human pulse behind it all. Whew!
The Coopers only move from strength to strength after the opener, from the incessantly hooky “Transit” and “To Battle An Island,” to the mid-album “April Blades” which conjures an intersection where Pink Floyd and Radiohead collide, to the closing “These Days” which has the potential to be a hit if The Receiver’s label K-Scope chooses to push it. The song employs the most friendly structure of all the songs on the release — none of which dabble in overtly difficult time signatures or over-flashy instrumentation — and has a big chorus one can envision washing over a stadium with a million smartphones waving in the audience.
All Burn is an expansive album that reserves the largesse for the emotions in the songs, not for the adornments surrounding it. It puts the keys up front but is neither a retro experiment in ’80s pop revivalism nor a new-pop exercise in midi-cannibalism. Call it the electronic-based album for people who have grown tired of electronic-based albums. The Receiver’s All Burn is highly recommended.