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Superhumanoids, ‘Exhibitionists’ – Album Review

Of all of Los Angeles’ music scenes, the synth-pop contingent hardly gets much ink, despite such notable artists as transplant Los Angelino act M83 and recent offerings by Kisses and Big Black Delta. And, over the past few years, Superhumanoids have acted like the mayors of L.A.’s Synth-Pop Town, appearing on bills with Friendly Fires, Cold War Kids, Local Natives, Active Child and countless others. During this time, it was hard to find a bigger local band that didn’t have a full-length out and hadn’t spread nationally.

With ‘Exhibitionists,’ Superhumanoids finally drop their debut LP, though they’ve offered multiple EPs, including one called ‘Urgency,’ strangely enough. Urgency is the biggest thing lacking from this album, and it seems they’ve squandered some of their best material on less visible early releases. ‘Geri,’ a single from last year, gets an encore performance, but a lot of the material here is new. It’s easy to respect that strategy, but it doesn’t make sense in terms of bolstering Superhumanoids’ broader appeal. To put this in perspective, imagine CHURCHES waits until 2015 to release an LP and then doesn’t include ‘Recover’ or ‘Gun’ or ‘The Mother We Share?’

And while ‘So Strange’ is a gem, with a hook from Sarah Chernoff that recalls Cocteau Twins, there is a vanilla synth-pop vibe that doesn’t match the band’s dark live presentation, nor anything that should jump out and grab new listeners. When they stick with the Cocteau vibe, it can feel derivative, like on the hard-to-hate ballad ‘Bad Weather.’ But unfortunately, when Chernoff doesn’t sing and leaves it to the boys, Superhumanoids lose their saving grace. To bring up CHVRCHES again, it’s reminiscent of the lack of personality they achieved on the recent ‘ZVVL.’

And maybe that’s the problem. Not that there is a limit on the amount of synth-pop that can be made, but when Superhumanoids’ contemporaries are clearly stronger than they are, what does that say for their chances? Yet another reason ‘Exhibitionists’ is probably two years too late: CHVRCHES weren’t around back then.

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