Image: Gorgon City
Gorgon City are very much a duo well within the groove of now. Their slick infusion of pop, house and garage has been an ever present in 2014, whether you've partied at a festival, club or just had a boogie to the radio, and that sound has now been bottled into their debut long player Sirens (stream below on Spotify).
The singles that have dominated 2014 are all here, the gentle bass brilliance of the MNEK fronted 'Ready for your love', 'Here for You' with Laura Welsh and the latest banger 'Unmissable' - all three managed to easily nestle themselves in the top twenty of the singles chart this year, with last year's sleeper groove 'Real' also part of the tracklisting.
That pop feel remains a constant on the album, as although Sirens is clearly grounded in UK club culture there's no mistake that this is dance music at its most accessible, instrumental club bangers eschewed for a song structure and vocallist collaboration on every track.
Some are high profile, Katy B going for her breathy underscored approach on 'Lover like you' as opposed to belting her heart out. Unsurprisingly the 2014 collaboration between the year's best clubland chanteuse and arguably the year's best producers is top notch, the subtlety of her voice lifting the gently euphoric and ethereal backing to commercial dance music nirvana.
The sound of 2013 merges with this year when Rudimental vocallist Annemarie props up 'Elevate', one of the most upbeat new moments and a snappy mutation from classic New Jersey garage swing towards the UK's bass drenched version, all in a neat three and a half minutes.
Jennifer Hudson impregnates the piano stabs of 'Go All Night' with a much more domineering performance, creating gospel house that draws as much from the nineties heyday of Ce Ce Peniston et al as it does the soundtrack for shufflers across the land. It's not a classic, but it's definitely big.
The less well known fare just as well. Katy Menditta pops up on 'Imagination', a track slipped into the blogoshpere a fortnight before the album's release, and it's clear she's got a bright future ahead of her with the sophisticated way she handles the gloriously catchy hook. NYC singer/rapper Tish Hyman also adds some transatlantic swagger to '6am'.
Perhaps more striking though are the album's more downbeat moments, which prove that the duo can deviate from the pop house formula that underpins almost everything else here. Swedish singer Erik Hassle pops up on 'FTPA', which may share an (admittedly softened) name with Peaches' 'Fuck the Pain Away' (above), but not its jerky sexuality.
Instead his icy Frank Ocean esque drawl adds a darker undercurrent to the overriding theme of love which dominates the release, the strings and shuffling drums accompanying a track which sounds a lot like the despair of break up sex - "kissing your scars softly, watching you giving me slowly".
There's a hint of Massive Attack about it, and it's easily the album's high-point and an indicator of how great the duo could be if they ever choose to step outside of the pop house confines. Amid the album's sheen and ever so slightly sterile consistency this track acts a clarion call of the joy of different ideas - we for one would love them to develop this aspect in the future.
Maverick Sabre is the only singer entrusted with more than one presence, his unmistakable rasp opening and closing the album on the muted house of 'Coming Home' and downbeat 'Hard on me'. The latter in particular is a surprisingly melancholy way to close proceedings, but again that shift in emphasis moves the release a long way from any accusations of monotony.
Overall this is sleek and shiny pop music which encapsulates the sound of 2014's dance mainstream in much the same way Disclosure's Settle did for last year, maybe slightly reigning too close to one sound but doing with such skill it's hard for it not to get under your skin.
It doesn't quite feel as fresh as the Lawrence brothers debut, and certainly could of done with being released during the height of summer rather than when the season finally gave in on a rainy October Monday the day after the Space closing, but this is exactly how we'll all remember 2014 sounding - and that's certainly no bad thing.
Gorgon City are taking Sirens on tour - more details here. For all their upcoming shows check out their artist profile.
Like this? Try Katy B 'Little Red' review.