Footprintz: Escape Yourself
Clarian North and Adam Hunter might have lifted the idea for their Footprintz cover image from the inner sleeve of Trans-Europe Express, but Escape Yourself is hardly a Kraftwerk ripoff. And though one presumes that the Dusseldorf group is an influence, one listen to the Montreal duo's first full-length confirms that other artists, among them Depeche Mode, New Order, and The Beach Boys, are more prominently drawn upon. Throughout the album, North and Hunter infuse their melodious vocal-electronic pop with a warm and analogue-oriented glow that goes down easily. Derivative it may at times be, but Escape Yourself is also a thoroughly pleasurable, if overlong, twelve-track collection. The title, incidentally, refers to the idea of escaping the confusing years of adolescence and early adulthood when you're trying to figure yourself out and what your place is in the larger scheme of things.
“The Things That Last Forever” introduces the album promisingly with the group's signature synth-pop sound boosted by the duo's feather-soft vocals and a subtly funky backing. In this song and others, the two pair up for the lead, whereas other songs see the lower-pitched voice of the two taking the lead. Echoes of Depeche Mode can be glimpsed in the dark undercurrent running through hypnotic, sexy jams like “Heaven Felt Like Night,” “The Fear of Numbers,” and “The Favourite Game”; “Zanzibar,” by comparison, looks backwards to a time when The Thompson Twins and Talk Talk reigned. Swooning wordless harmonies separate “Private Enemy” from the crowd and reveal the influence of The Beach Boys on the Footprintz sound, while the clockwork bass lines in “Dangers of the Mouth” most directly reference New Order. Footprintz brings confident swagger to clubbier fare like “The Invisible,” which amplifies its funk strut with chunky guitar riffs and a beefed-up vocal presence, and “Uncertain Change,” whose luscious, synth-stoked groove comes pretty close to being irresistible.
Word has it that Footprintz broke up in February 2013, which makes for, shall we say, interesting timing given that the release of its debut collection arrives a month after the split. If the report is true (which it likely is, given that it came from North himself), it's a shame, given the high level of songcraft and production polish captured on Escape Yourself.