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On April 13th, Stealing Sheep dropped their synth heavy, '80s inspired sophomore album, Not Real. The trio, Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer produced the album themselves, seeing how they could use the studio to their advantage. Not Real is all processed, electronic studio noodling that looks to push the boundary of the band's sound.

On standout track 'Apparition', percussive sounds carry the song, with synthesizers supporting the vocal melody, bouncing along or swelling in and out for dramatic flair, carefully mirroring the lyrics. The word "Trouble" is sung like some dark mantra. After the first chorus, a quivering synth line signals the percussion to pick up. At the end of the song, you feel almost like you are running - though it is unclear if you are trying escape or run back to where you were.

The first single and title track, 'Not Real', is all '80s flair, from the choral-pop vocals and head-bobbing rhythm to the heavy synths and tinkering eclectic instruments. The track opens with a cappella vocals, "Don't let the daytime fool you that you're not real" and kicks in to a mid-tempo synth buster. Even the music video utilizes bright colours, eclectic set designs, strange shapes and qualities mimicking a low budget television show. It's the type of music/video combo that is an Urban Outfitters or American Apparel wet dream.

There is the song, 'Greed' which is heavy, dark, yet strangely refreshing; it sounds new. This song is a perfect marriage of layering with studio know-how. A bass drum is hit on every downbeat while vocals sing with slight dissonance. Backing vocals provide most of the instrumentation until the first break. That's when the drums pick up and the layered instrumentation - some electronic, but also woodwind and brass - begin to make their mark. The lyrics, "Are you hungry for denial? / Or are you full of fear inside?" play with the weighted, tribal feel.

Not Real can be seen as Stealing Sheep's answer to more traditional, synth inspired indie-pop groups like Little Dragon and more experimental acts like Javelin and Tipsy. And while these bands are not in the realm of '80s revival, studio play is a big component of their compositions. For Stealing Sheep, there are many moments where production worked in their favour ('Apparition, 'Greed', 'Evolve and Expand'), but there are times where the songs seem to exist on the same level. The album as a whole lacks a dynamic ebb and flow from track to track.

Here's the thing: there has been a resurgence of synths, fabricated sounds, and electronic beats. While on one hand it can be looked at as a fad, something more important is happening. Bands are able to achieve sonically what so many musicians strived for, but failed to do in the '80s. The recording studio, now more than ever, is an instrument. Stealing Sheep realised this when putting together Not Real. Their efforts were actualised in a catchy album that makes you want to dig deeper and discover what they are trying to say lyrically and musically.

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