PHASES

RELEASED APRIL 15, 2016

MANIFESTO RECORDS

The debut album from Los Angeles' Cellars, 2016's Phases, is a moody, sexy collection of '80s-style synth pop. Produced by Los Angeles psychedelia and cassette culture wizard Ariel PinkPhases is a showcase for singer/songwriter Allene Norton, who formed Cellars in 2013 as a conduit for her love of vintage '70s and '80s synth-based music ranging from Kate Bush to Human League. In that sense, with Pink's assistance, Phases positions Norton as a kind of indie pop Madonna, in the same vein as her contemporaries Little Boots and La Roux, albeit slightly more lo-fi. We're not talking the slick, early-'90s Madonna, but the 1982, post-Breakfast Club, house music dancing, promo video-making MadonnaNorton's voice is pleasantly nasal, with just enough throaty resonance to give her bedroom club music some guts. Also adding some welcome heft to the proceedings are her backing musicians, including drummer Dâm-Funk, bassist/guitarist Paris Yavuz, and others. While the album starts off slowly, it quickly builds steam, gaining your confidence with the fizzy pop of "Do You Miss Me?" and the sultry summer ballad "Real Good Day." However, it's the second half of Phases, with tracks like the Latin house anthem "Toys" and the dance-inducing, Day-Glo-hued "I'm Feeling," that really kick the '80s mixtape vibe into high gear. While most of Phases sounds like a long-lost '80s demo tape, that's a good thing, and Norton and her crew balance the earnest analog production with just enough exuberant tongue-in-cheek attitude to keep you smiling while you dance. As Norton raps Blondie style on the bass-popping disco-funk cut "Nervous": "You took me out, you turned me on, and now my blues are dead and gone."

-Matt Collar, ALLMUSIC