Computer Dreaming

Figurine ditches its synth pop past for an electro present

The group's songwriting, however, has grown far more sophisticated. On "Rewind," Meredith and James trade verses, using the metaphor of a rewind button to question whether they should restart their floundering relationship. Then, in the last verse, Meredith suggests James press the fast-forward button to see how crappy his life would be without her. "Stranger" uses a similar format, with the duo swapping vocals -- only this time he is watching her from afar and she wants to keep him there. The song alternates between the boy's unrequited love and the girl's need for a stranger's protective but distant presence.

As you may have noticed, The Heartfelt doesn't offer much in the way of good cheer. On "Way Too Good," James sings, "I don't know what you see in me/ A disappointment is all I'll ever be," while on "Heartfelt," Meredith wonders, "Do you have a heart?/ You seem so artificial." If this is the future of love, we might be better off on the moon.

Luckily, the group's melodies are far from downbeat. "IMpossible" is James' attempt at besting the Pet Shop Boys, and he almost succeeds: It's easy to imagine the song's fuzzy beats, looped trills, and Casio plinks lighting up a disco, with dancers singing along to "I M so lost without you." "Way Too Good" is techno-polished pop with thudding beats and squiggly noises, and "So Futuristic" swings to a squishy funk rhythm lifted from an '80s "booty bass" song.

Figurine: So futuristic.
David Figurine
Figurine: So futuristic.
Figurine: So futuristic.
David Figurine
Figurine: So futuristic.

When asked the difference between their songwriting styles, David says with a laugh, "I can tell James' [tracks] because they've got things I would never know how to do. And James hears mine and thinks they're primitive."

"David's are more bouncy, and James' are more textured," Meredith offers.

The question remains: Will indie fans expecting synths and androids be put off by this new direction? Hoping to get people involved in the new songs, Figurine placed three of what it calls "password" songs on The Heartfelt, each with a code title like "NATUR." A listener can go to the group's Web site, plug the code letters into different locations, and download the separations -- the individual vocals and beats -- for each song.

"It's an attempt to see if anyone will do a remix. It's a twist on the bonus track and a way of integrating the Web site and album," David explains.

For their part, the members of Figurine aren't staying put. They've contacted numerous abstract electronica people like Isan and Sutekh, asking them to send unused bits of tracks so Figurine can turn them into pop songs.

"I think it's hard for some of them because they think we're taking their serious art and making it into pop, and they've been consciously trying to avoid pop," David says.

With The Heartfelt, Figurine isn't consciously avoiding pop; it's hot-wiring it for the Space Age dance floor.

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