Back in 2008, New York DJ Andy Butler came together with Kim-Ann Foxman and Antony Hegarty to form the instantly distinct group Hercules and Love Affair. Their self-titled debut album was released in March of that year, blending together the sounds of the iconic 80s house genre with sweeping vocals, modern techniques and a unique presence. Once again, Andy Butler is back, and this time, along with Foxman and minus Hegarty, the group has found new members. Newcomers fan-turned-band-member Shaun Wright and singer Aerea Negrot provide vocals throughout Hercules and Love Affair's sophomore album Blue Songs, adding a new dimension to the already unique style of the band. The return to the iconic house style was what made their debut album stand out, and that presence continues in Blue Songs. With a few big guest appearances and a ton of new flavour, their sophomore outing shows the increasing development of an already amazing band.
Right from the get go Blue Songs brings you into the hypnotic, flowing world of Hercules and Love Affair with the song "Painted Eyes." The subtle bass lines, striking violin notes, and synth work all come together to make on of the most memorable songs on the album. Following "Painted Eyes" is "My House," which brings the house influence to the forefront. The synth work, the vocals, the simple-yet-catchy-as-hell bass; all of it takes that house background and infiltrates your eardrums.
The song "Answers Come In Dreams" is the perfect example of how the group has taken their house foundation and built upon it. Just by adding elements of funk, they turned this song into an upbeat, and simply kick ass song. "Boy Blue" and "Blue Song," with their slow pace and diverse instrumentation, also show off the increasing breadth of the band's abilities. Even the album's last track, "It's Alright," shows how the band has grown in terms of pacing, with each song being very well placed in comparison to those that came before and after. On the other hand, the only song on the entire album that felt a little disjointed was "Visitor," which felt like it was thrown in at the last minute and feels altogether uninspired compared to the rest.
Perhaps the best song on the album, in my opinion, is "Step Up," also features the most notable guest appearance. Kele Okereke (of Bloc Party fame), steps in to provide lead vocals on the track, which is also the most house-centric on the entire album. The simplicity of every synth key, every transition from verse chorus and back to verse, every hit from the drum machine; it all comes together perfectly. Kele is especially amazing on vocals, adding his style to the track that sets it apart from the rest on the album.
It's fantastic to see when a band develops so significantly from one album to the next, and Hercules and Love Affair stuck to what they did best and kept getting better. Blue Songs is a step in the right direction for the band, who are taking the house genre and giving it a fresh new face. By blending new genres in with a rather simplistic electronic genre, the sounds and styles produced by Andy Butler and his group are something entirely their own, and that is something they should continue to strive for.