Swedish synthpop band Ashbury Heights is finally back after a five year hiatus with their new album The Looking Glass Society and it’s packed full of just as much imagination as anything Lewis Carroll could come up with. This album is decidedly more pop than anything else Ashbury Heights has ever released, but this is refined pop music for intellectuals and elegant aristocrats. One can sing and dance to the prominent synths and irresistible hooks on The Looking Glass Society, yet still encounter the Gothy themes that give Ashbury Heights their edge. New female singer/songwriter and model Tea F. Thimé joins founder Anders Hagström to create futuristic Victorian soundscapes with mass appeal. I think Anders may have uncovered the perfect formula for world domination together with Tea.
“Phantasmagoria” is a great example of the band’s dark electro pop that could sneak onto Top 40 radio. The ghostly bells and spooky lyrics are certainly a nod to Carroll’s poem of the same name. Anders’ and Tea’s beautiful vocals really mesh on “The Number 22”, complete with a delicate carousel-esque break from the driving electronic beats. The harpsichord and strings at the beginning of “Hollow” unexpectedly lead into Tea’s sultry vocal stylings and danceable instrumentation. Ashbury Heights’ implementation of strings into their music adds another dash of class to their multidimensional dance songs.
The anthemic “Ghost Spirit Mother” is certainly my favorite song from The Looking Glass Society. The song is about losing someone close to you, but continuing on in their legacy. “Ghost Spirit Mother” is uplifting and hopeful, turning a dark experience into something positive. The whole album is like a high society theatre show with plenty of dramatics and shadowy undercurrents. I can’t wait to hear the companion album to The Looking Glass Society, entitled The Victorian Wallflowers, which is soon to be released. The modern maturity and fairy tale charm of Ashbury Heights will definitely guide listeners into Wonderland.