• Karl Magi

Summer Synthwave

With summer in full swing, I’ve rounded up the summery, synth-based albums that I have reviewed over the past months. I enjoyed each of them for their individual qualities, but they all have linking characteristics.

One of the excellent features that each of them possessed was the mixture of chilled-out, gentle vibes and a deeper, more wistful emotional expressiveness. I was drawn to that melancholy, nostalgic mixture of feelings.

Another linking quality was the lush, complex and interwoven tapestries of synth sounds that each of the albums used. They generated strong, clear mental imagery that brimmed with sensation.

The final linking factor that I want to mention is the strength of the melodic writing on each of the albums. Every one of the artists involved had a talent for crafting memorable, affecting melodies.

Dream Shore - Miami

The sonic journey that I was taken on by Dream Shore’s Miami was a lush exploration of a wide-ranging collection of synth moods, tones and timbres. I also enjoyed how the vocals brimmed over with passion and well-written lyrics.

I was particularly drawn to the lush soundscapes that were created on Miami. Layers of richly intertwined synths created everything from cut glass shimmer to sharp growling sound. There’s sonic tapestries being intricately woven on this album.

The emotive, expressive vocals contributed by Dream Shore, E.M. Watson and Clap & Thunder were another element that I found compelling. All of the vocalists had power and depth. I especially enjoyed how Dream Shore’s voice could soar high or swoop low, caressing or energizing.

The lyrics that Dream Shore wrote for the album also attracted me. He created strong, clear imagery through expressive language. I was also drawn to how he finds a balance in terms of weaving images while avoiding wordiness.

Ultimately I found the lush concoction of synth sounds, emotive vocals and thoughtful lyrics on Miami deeply enjoyable and ideal summer listening.

The Motion Epic - Boardwalk Arcadia

The powerful mixture of aching melancholy and bright hope on The Motion Epic’s Boardwalk Arcadia was the first thing that drew me to the album. It was an emotive expression of the way in which youthful dreams fade away and transform as we grow. I felt that this album was full of the memories of summers past, fading like an old Polaroid into distant dreaming.

One of the major elements that attracted me to Boardwalk Arcadia was Pat Dimeo’s tremendous vocal performance on the album. His voice expressed everything from aching loss to soaring triumph, but I was especially moved by the tenderness his voice could express.

I was also pulled into this album by the superb performances of all the musical contributors to the album. Adding human performances on the percussion, sax and keys gave Boardwalk Arcadia added depth and emotional expression. I felt a strong sense of connection to the human element in the sound.

The melodies that Pat Dimeo crafted on Boardwalk Arcadia were another compelling reason that I enjoyed the album. His melodic writing on the album had an ability to inspire deep emotion in me and keep me engaged. I enjoyed his facility with infusing even his most positive melodies with a melancholic core.

The gentle glow of past summers softly shines from Boardwalk Arcadia, gaining full expression through the first-rate performances on the album. I am enamoured of the hopeful, aching feeling of the album.

Splash ’96 - Summers In Anniston

I found Summers In Anniston to be an airy journey through a nostalgic summer landscape of hazy pink clouds, jazz-inflected melodies and an abiding feeling of caressing warmth. I felt as though I was being transported through a sun-dappled landscape of poolside daydreams.

There was an undeniable draw for me from the funky, jazzy influences on Summers In Anniston. I was attracted to the smooth jazz riffs and the groove of the funky bass lines. These elements added to the abiding feeling of “cool” that oozed from each sonic pore of this music.

Another aspect of Summers In Anniston that I found pleasing was the easy flow of the synths that Splash ’96 used on the album. They created an atmosphere that was full of caressing sounds that shone like a glowing sun in a sky crossed by cotton candy clouds. The synths covered sounds from shimmering light to flowing turquoise water, painting auditory images in my mind.

This album was also one that I enjoyed due to the way in which Splash ’96 harked back to the cooler end of the retrowave spectrum. He had nods to jazz fusion, electro-funk and smooth jazz that enhanced the easy-going, summery vibes exuded by the other musical elements of the track.

My final conclusion about Summers In Anniston is that it made for the perfect poolside companion for a lazy day, drenched in sunlight. It was so rich in an atmosphere and mood that captured those endless August days of childhood.

Manhatten - Can We Talk…

Manhatten’s Can We Talk… was another album where soothing nostalgia was combined with wistful emotion to create a feeling of dreamy summers past tempered by the realization that they won’t come again. The music glided along smoothly, but that smoothness didn’t take away from the emotional expression in the music.

The first element that caught my ears about Can We Talk…was the variety, tones and timbres of Manhatten’s synth choices. The whole album was full of glittering, drifting and enfolding sounds that created a misty, diaphanous atmosphere. The synths contributed a feeling of silky smoothness to the tracks, a feeling tempered by a tinge of something aching.

Another aspect of this album that I found engaging was the quality of Manhatten’s melodies on the album. They have the caressing warmth of a summer’s day, but there are flashes of yearning and even sadness to punctuate them. The gentleness of the melodies doesn’t obscure their poignancy.

The musical contributions of guest performers (and songwriters) on Can We Talk…were crucial to my enjoyment of the album.

Mayah Camara and Drew Gowan (The Last Years) each brought their distinctive vocal talents and strong songwriting chops to the music. Their voices, both vocal and narrative, added even more emotion to the already touching feelings on the album.

There was a soft focus glow suffusing Can We Talk…that I deeply appreciated. It has all the characteristics of an album designed for summer relaxation, but with an added sensation of wistful emotion. I enjoyed that added depth!

Each of these albums touched me in their own unique way and each of them is a distillation of the heady mixture of emotions, images and sensations that are created by summer dreams and memories of summers past.