When nothing feels new, we as humans reach for the old, extend a hand to what is comfortable and safe. Nostalgia reigns supreme as a result, as creators try to strike a balance between those creature comforts and a new monster altogether. In the synthpop and post-punk worlds, this struggle is pervasive, but making it look all too easy is Los Angeles songstress Riki. On her second record Gold, what was old is new again, as Riki takes a bold step forward in an institutional genre.
“Lo” starts things off sonically in the late Eighties, especially in the quieter verses with a swelling, chime-laden chorus. The bassline is hum-worthy on this infectious opening track, before sliding into goth rock territory on “Marigold,” which might be my personal favorite track on the disc. It rides the line between bouncy and moody, maintaining a danceable rhythm with gliding synth licks. “Oil and Metal,” the instrumental intro in particular , wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Depeche Mode’s Violator, but while the track calls back to more familiar melodies, the shimmery synth work is what gives that recognizable tune a fresh coat of paint. The structure of the dueling vocal lines, one talk-sung and one emphatically crooned, is a nice nod to the song’s title as well.
The chilled-out, dub-informed “It’s No Secret” is a cloud walking number, with delay-steeped guitar interludes and a minimal drum part. It’s one of a handful of tracks with a smooth sax lick, giving a big city feel to this otherwise ephemeral song. “Sonar” is vocal-forward with a plucky bass groove. It is here that we see Riki’s full vocal range, be it her singing us to slumber or urging us closer to that old haunt. On the subject of old haunts, the opening to “Last Summer” is as post-punk as we get, with tubular bass lines and the odd chorus-tinged guitar moment. Aside from “Marigold,” this may be the most radio-ready, “puts the ‘pop’ in synthpop” track of the album.
Within “Viktor” lies the very definition of grey sky guitar, though the song is a synthpop number first and foremost. There’s a stirring beauty about this track, a reverent admiration of sorts. The final two tunes, “Porque Te Vas” and “Florence and Selena” are just fun, the former for its Latin flavor and hypnotic vocal melody, and the latter for its retro-futuristic flavors, and the return of that swinging saxophone. All told, we make our way back around to that Eighties synthpop flavor we began with, but the song is far from the same.
If her sound is this dynamic and sweeping on only her sophomore outing, imagine what Riki can do in the future. Gold is a joy of a record that must not slip under the radar of an avid synthpop fan. There is plenty to dance to here, but there’s perhaps even more to get lost in on a first or second listen. It’s fresh, and for a style of music that has one super-prominent touchstone or point of reference, that is nothing short of an achievement.
Here’s my latest update on life. Like many people, this has been a rough patch. A lot of personal inventory has been had along with tough life evaluations, revelations, and epiphanies. It sucks. Luckily, I have had one thing in my life since I was a little kid that always helped me through the hard times. That thing is music. During this time, a lot of things have shut down. However, music keeps going and keeps getting better by the day.
When I was scrolling through Bandcamp today, I needed some new tunes to carry me through this week and the many moods it would surface. Some of this is brand new, some of it came out this month, some of it is just a preview of what’s to come. All of it’s great.
This indie-rock, electro-pop, synth album is the definition of glee. The songs are fun with lots of quirky samples that seem to be centralized around generally peppy things. Griffith’s voice has a soothing sound to it. Not to say it’s angelic, but something about it feels familiar and refreshing. The music is incredible. It’s fast and in-your-face synth-pop with synthesized drums that incorporates romantic feels at points with unexpected instrumentation. Every track on this album had its own thing that made it stand out.
‘Le livre des Merveilles’ is absolutely insane. It’s every ounce of what you’d imagine a post-jazz, post-rock, avant-garde, power-pop album would be. You never know what to expect. Each track creates an entirely new landscape and mental image. Some tracks, like “Le livre des Merveilles” are shorter and have a poppier feel, almost like Stereolab.While other tracks like “Le fleuve Brison” start a little more cosmic feeling and take their time building into hugeness. The album maintains is unpredictability throughout splashing in longer experimental interludes featuring instrumentation from synths to strings within the tracks. Also, there are a ton incredible vocal harmonies.
If you’re in dire need of walls of sound with pop-rock vibes underneath, this is the album for you. Blankenberge has fused together shoegaze, dream-pop, and post-rock together in a way that is astonishing. The instrumentation is saturated in a way that hits you in big emotional waves. One of the guitars sounds super wet and surfy, while the other creates ambiance and space. The songs are still driving and sometimes really upbeat, borderline optimistic-sounding, without being overtly happy. The vocals are super saturated and act as more of an instrument than lyrics to sing along with. There are huge post-rock builds and unexpected rhythmic changes throughout that make each song increasingly interesting. Altogether, it’s really beautiful music that makes ya feel good.
“ODDLY is a 3 piece rock band with no bassist. Why we don’t need bass? Cuz we’re louder than that.” I took that from their Bandcamp about section because I thought it was perfect. It perfectly describes who they are and kind of how they sound,. Don’t let their promise of loudness dissuade you. I mean, it’s pretty loud, but it’s intricate and fun with little happy vibes overall. There’s a classic, early 90’s alternative punk vibe to it with apathetic vocals riddled with angst. I love the call-and-response in songs like their featured track, “Loaded”. From beginning to end, this EP is everything it promised to be with its title.
SPC ECO consists of former Curve member Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin. They’ve been doing this project actively since 2007 and have been putting out shorter EP’s the last few months. This EP is very fun and poppy with some really chill electronic songs and some really energetic songs. The dreaminess of this album is almost immeasurable. When you close your eyes and listen to tracks like, “Don’t Mind Me,” the mental scenery is so bright and positive. Other tracks, like my personal favorite, “Who We Are” have a more melancholy vibe to them with experimental textures and synth. This is an alum that you can get hypnotized by and utilize when you’re doing extended outside tasks like walking around, gardening, or driving.
Okay, so this isn’t an album or an EP, it’s just a single. However, I’ve been obsessed, now listening to this track a dozen times. I can’t tell you what exactly I love about it so much. Is it the excessive use of spring reverb or that classic tone on the organ. I love the fact that it sounds like you’re listening to the track on a warped piece of vinyl. Something about it is so positive at the same time as being so haunting. It has every ounce of a happy day song when you’re driving down the street, wind in your hair, styling some huge fashionable sunglasses while still being ever so slightly unnerving. There’s nothing minor or negative about this jangle-pop track, which is something really great to be able to listen to and really enjoy right now. I can’t wait to hear more from this band.
Only Track: It’s A Felling She Don’t Believe In
Release Date: March 30, 2020
Once again, I hope you all enjoyed this installment of “Katy’s ‘End of Days’ Playlist”. I enjoyed making it. There’s a ton of amazing music coming out regardless of the world situation that can give us all a little comfort right now. Whether you’re into dark, heavy stuff or prefer things to be a little lighter right now, there’s something out there for you to enjoy. You just have to dig a little. Hopefully, these lists help steer you in the right direction.
Things are tough, but you better believe we’re tougher than this. Stay safe and healthy if you’re able to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Reach out to your friends and family and find something to occupy your mind so things don’t feel as dark. I’ve chosen to deep dive into Bandcamp and have found it to be a sanity-saving time consumer.
You are cared about even if it’s by someone or a group of people you’ve never met. We care about you. All of you. We want to help make this time bearable for people who aren’t used to being home all the time and severely want everyone to get through this with as little damage as possible, but we’re also here if you just need to talk to someone. Reach out. We love you all.