RATING: 3.5 out of 5

You could be forgiven for thinking that the synth-pop sound had died an honourable death in the early 1990s, following the virtual demise of Neil Tennants’ the Pet Shop Boys and Annie Lennox going into more rock-centric territory with the Eurythmics.

However, you’d be dead wrong – this month its back!

The good news is it doesn’t sound too bad: British pair Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid met in 2006 and formed La Roux, releasing their first hit single – “Quicksand” – in December last year before attracting international attention with follow-up singles, and really making a splash with their debut, self-titled album.

Despite obvious limitations with the synth sound, the tracks here cover all the ground between dance-floor anthem (see: recent UK number 1 “Bulletproof”) and soulful ballad (see: “Cover My Eyes”) – all the while showing off a knack for catchy rhythms and highlighting Jackson’s incredible vocal range.

But while it might all sound the same at times, you have to give credit where it’s due: La Roux have managed to sound fresh by looking into the not-too-distant past, perhaps putting the spotlight on the audiences’ use-once-and-destroy mentality and the tendency of musical styles to come back around again … and again …

 ARTIST: Arctic Monkeys
RATING: 2.5 out of 5

On paper, it looks like a fantastic combination: a massively successful British rock band looking to redefine themselves and hike off in search of new musical territory, produced by Josh Homme, frontman for one of this decades most successful ‘cult’ bands in Queens of the Stone Age, introducing the band to his American rock sensibilities.

Luckily the band manage to remain true to their sound, retaining the awkward chord work and small-town inspired lyrical wit of Alex Turner that marked their previous work.

The combination does work on occasion – for example, first single “Crying Lightning” would fit in on either of the groups previous works.

Sadly, beyond a few sparse highlights, there isn’t much else to write home about.

All too often the group get stuck relying on odd twanging guitar leads, bland keyboard work, and downbeat riffs that just serve to make the group sound like a bad impersonation of themselves.

Further than that, Homme appears to be asleep at the wheel, content to let the band do whatever they want, while 3 tracks produced by James Ford (The Last Shadow Puppets), and sprinkled through the album, manage to make the album even more disjointed.

 ARTIST: Fat Freddy’s Drop
RATING: 4 out of 5

Before I even got started listening to Dr Boondigga – the followup to the highest selling NZ album of the decade – I had 2 thoughts.

First, why release during winter? If the groups’ debut, Based on a True Story, showed us anything, its that the Drop were perfectly suited to Kiwi summer – why would the followup be any different?

Secondly, what took so long?

It seemed like Boondigga had been coming for a while, as a single hit the internet in the middle of last year, nearly a year before its release, and 4 years had passed since their epic debut.

The truth started to become clear from the opening track: the group have truly indulged themselves with time, ensuring that every song here has been scrutinized over and again, meticulously recorded, listened to and mixed, until every member of the group is happy with the result.

The end result is an album that has much in common with its predecessor, but is ultimately more upbeat and musically tighter, making it more enjoyable – even if there is only one track clocking in under 6 minutes.

Despite its odd release date, make no mistake: this is the sound of the coming summer.