Recording information: Airport Oasis; Aurora Zone; Avast! Studios; Different Fur; Moscozzi Studios; Pend Orielle.
Photographer: Coco Foto.
Seattle's Beat Connection continue to evolve on their sophomore LP, Product 3, a mostly laid-back affair that ups the quotient on shimmering R&B sounds and textural sonic pastiche. Over the course of their two prior releases, they've touched on sunny, instrumental EDM, shiny dance grooves, and more straightforward synth pop, offering not-so-subtle hints of their fixation with late-'80s dance pop. While Product 3 introduces a number of new sounds and tones into their mix, it's also their slickest, most overtly stylized production to date. For the most part, Beat Connection wear the clothes well, managing to build catchy, often soulful tunes that still contain enough subtlety and warmth to avoid feeling overblown or derivative. Thin, funky guitar tones and soft synths bounce against dreamy Bollywood tabla and vocal samples on the lovely "Another Go Round," while the hushed-but-hooky "Ad Space" is a finely crafted midtempo tale perfect for the midnight hour. "Air Conditioning" is a slow jam with a strong melody and an easy manner about it, and the cyclical groove on "Reality TV" is a head-bopping wonder. Still, there are times when Beat Connection's battle between artful and commercial tilts more toward the latter and their sincerity wanes. Singer Tom Eddy is a strong vocalist, but occasionally his smooth soul stylings comes across more like banal pillow talk, especially on "Illusion." Generally, though, the irony of naming the album Product 3 remains intact as Beat Connection turns in a solid set that is both creative and easy on the ears. ~ Timothy Monger