The Violet Flame (Mute)
Electro pioneers Erasure probably aren't hip enough to appeal to the EDM kids, many of whom weren't even born when the band started recording nearly 30 years ago. But the duo — Andy Bell and Vince Clarke — still sounds sharp. Their solid songwriting skills distinguish their 16th studio album. The disc commences with the jittery "Dead of Night." A glitchy number that features crisp vocals and trance beats, it's tailor-made for a remix. There's something jubilant about tunes such as "Elevation" and "Promises," synth-pop tunes that reflect the album's themes (Bell has said the songs are all about "hope, forgiveness, being given a new chance"). With its crooning vocals, the ballad "Be the One" could practically pass as an Elton John tune and "Paradise" has a retro sound and comes off like something from Depeche Mode. Overall, this is an engaging album that reflects the duo's ongoing passion for making music.