TMBOY - “Steam”
Normally, music categorized somewhere between “dance” and “pop” will have certain common elements, such as a driving 4/4 beat, and computerized voices singing empty platitudes about imaginary, idealistic infatuations. Such is not the case with this album. Electronic duo TMBOY releases Steam, a full length record that blends the high energy of electro-pop dance music with the subtlety, nuance, and vulnerability of singer-songwriting.
This music is charged with kinetic energy, surging with hard hitting EDM beats and buzzing with smooth lines of delicious synth - it's music that emerges from, speaks to, and urges movement. Each track draws the listener in from the opening notes, and holds that attention through to the end. Listening to the instrumentation on these tracks, produced by electronic composer Will Shore, would be enjoyable enough - but add the phenomenal vocal work by Sarah Aument, and this record skyrockets to new heights. Her effortless, charming, and powerful delivery leaps from each arrangement from smoky, intimate passages to full-voiced splendor that soars skyward. The brightness of her voice, and the raw beauty of the streamlined lyrics she sings, cast across the shadowy, atmospheric backdrop of synth bliss, makes Steam an emotional and urgent listen. Channeling beloved voices from the 90s, Aument’s style brings to mind powerhouse voices such as Eddi Reader, Björk, Tracey Thorn, or Cocteau Twins - but never gets hung up on emulating the styles of others. She has a strong, confident presentation that is distinctly her own.
The combination of this duo’s powers is evident in tracks such as No One, where crucial timing and contrast between tender, reflective verses and bold, vibrant choruses create a dynamic feel. The title track, Steam, pairs a textured, exotic beat with singsong lyrics, precise harmonies, and a wide open chorus that hits hard with sweeping, anthemic power and resonant waves of synth energy.
Another highlight track, Zephyr, begins with a looping synth arpeggio with some exquisite falsettos, a supercharged pre-chorus that buzzes with tension, and a beautiful chorus backed by distant orchestral synths. “What if I am so small, I am nothing now?” is the beautifully self-reflective line from the chorus - one of many such lines in the uniquely minimal and poetic lyrics found here. Each of these tracks is blessed with stylish, relatable, and intimate writing.
Overall, Steam is what we would classify as an essential release. There isn’t a note out of place. Every selection has its own identity, yet the release is a solid listen. Just like its namesake, Steam is full of rushing heat, immediate kinetic power, and the simplicity of combined elemental forces. The album is available in compact disc, LP, or digital. We highly recommend that you put this in your ears.