ALBUM REVIEW: The New Division – Modern Life

4.0 rating
The New Division – Modern Life

SoCal-based electronic synth-pop artist The New Division, aka John Glenn Kunkel, releases his new album, Modern Life, which probes into the consequences of technology addiction and navigating a relentlessly everchanging world.

Kunkel explains, “A lot of this album was written when we were all stuck at home, unable to hang out with friends, be with our families. While I don’t think the pandemic changed me drastically, I notice something different about myself when I play these songs back-to-back. There’s something I’m uncomfortable with the way the world is today, and I’m still exploring that through the music I write.”

The New Division began when Kunkel was 18, just as synth-driven music was gaining a foothold yet not quite mainstream. Borrowing the name from an economics book he was assigned to read in college – The New Division of Labor – he released his first EP, The Rookie, followed by his 2011 album, Shadows, inspired by film noir, murder mysteries, and drug abuse.

Other albums, EPs, and singles followed, along with performances around the globe. At the present juncture, Kunkel’s life is drastically different from when he first began making music.

“Times have changed, I’m married, have two kids, work a long nine to five, but the drive to make the music I love is still there,” shares Kunkel.

Comprising 10 tracks, entry points on Modern Life include “Stateside,” opening on swirling synth colours rolling into a syncopated rhythm topped by leitmotifs drenched in shimmering surfaces. Dreamy and echoing, the vocals imbue the lyrics with gliding, kaleidoscopic textures.

Riding hints of a funk-lite rhythm merged with Depeche Mode-like new wave flavours, “Circles” embraces gleaming, percolating tinctures, all capped by Kunkel’s brooding vocals. Whereas there’s a dark edginess to “Silent Films,” which travels on emerging washes of synths and then takes on angular, almost tip-toeing, harmonics.

A personal favourite because of its thick waves of glittering sound and Kunkel’s sailplaning vocals, “Southside” rolls out a dazzling carpet of new wave veneers. “Sequence” begins with low-slung glistening tones, followed by descending to soft, ethereal colouration, with deeper timbres flowing underneath. Kunkel ties the album off with “Zenith,” full of luminous, wafting hues and velvety, coasting vocals, rising to high soaring tones.

With Modern Life, The New Division provides listeners with creamy, scintillating suffusions of new wave-laced harmonics and sumptuous vocals.



Xsnoize Author
Randall Radic 186 Articles
Randy Radic lives in Northern California where he smokes cigars, keeps snakes as pets, and writes about music and pop culture. Fav artists/bands: SpaceAcre, Buddy Miller, Post Malone, Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, and he’s a sucker for female-fronted dream-pop bands.

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