Welcome to Neon Index 11, a series of short-reviews of synth-related music albums! If you are not familiar with how this works, I strongly recommend taking a peek at Neon Index 0 for the why, how, and when.
I thank you for taking this journey with me.
In this edition we run as far as we can, drink some smooth coffee, and awaken to slay evil.
This is Neon Index.
Runaway by Arcade Riviera
Runaway is a 5-track Synthwave and Synthpop album by Arcade Riviera released on the 19th of July 2019.
Life can take very sharp turns at times, but until that turn comes the question is — are you prepared for it? Maybe you’ve crossed someone in the past, and it’s slowly catching up to you; maybe it’s so shocking that you have no idea what is happening. Do you have a plan ready to run away from the troubles to come?
Arcade Riviera tells a dramatic fugitive story in this vocal-based album. It has its roots in the classical synthpop sounds, with some added European flair. You’ll find a multitude of slow, soft synths, arpeggios, saxophone parts, distorted guitars, and minimalistic drums with the synthwave-specific transitions. It hits very well its goal of being a synthwave album first and foremost. And as for the synthpop part, it is filled with energetic vocals, which have a certain sense of urgency to them, keeping to the theme of being on the run. These are not only well written, but also an integral part of the songs, as they give direction to the listener.
While it would be fair to say that the story here is presented mostly through lyrics, quite normal for synthpop, I find that the tone and atmosphere created by the music give a lot more context and emotion. Sure, the lyrics help you get around, and better stay connected to the artist through the direct information one digests, but the writing truly creates a situation where you feel on the run from someone, with unsureness in your heart. It can quite raise your heartbeat, if you give it the chance.
Runaway is a lovely synthwave album filled with great tunes and emotion. If you’re itching for more synthpop in your life, the album is more than ready to scratch it.
Coffee by Sonic Gap
Coffee is a 9-track New Wave and Synthpop album by Sonic Gap released on the 5th of January 2018.
Coffee is quite the popular drink nowadays with its energetic effect, taste, variety, and general experience. Sonic Gap brings not just one cup of this thick and rich beverage, but gently puts the whole coffee machine in front of you, which somehow has an integrated synthesizer to soothe you even before your choice is ready.
Describing the album as just New Wave and Synthpop does it a disservice considering the diversity of the tracks. You can find anything from classic rock to synthwave, but with quite a 70–80s aesthetic to it, depending on the track. This is achieved with a different selection of instruments — electric guitar and a more aggressive synth for something closer to the 80s, organ-like synth and piano for the older 70s. And though you can discern the different tonality, the album as a whole is very consistent. On one side it’s probably the more acoustic drums contained on all songs, but the vocals play a large part as well.
The vocals fit every track perfectly. The writing for them is mellow, reminding quite a bit of The Beatles. The singing will take you to the perfect coffee shop, put a blanket around you, and make you warm and comfortable, while the instrumentation brings a taste of quite a few different emotions — love, concern, joy, etc. The mood is quite positive, even though the specific topic of the song might not necessarily be.
Coffee certainly has something for everyone. But just like other acquired tastes, maybe this synthpop album can be your gateway to few other genres and sub-genres. Be sure not to pass on this creamy wholesome experience.
Awakening by Magicsword
Awakening is a 7-track Synthwave album by Magicsword released on the 25th of October 2019.
Generally, synthwave takes a retro, sci-fi, or space approach to its aesthetic, which makes sense considering the heavy usage of 80s-inspired synthesizers. But its quite rare to see a fantasy take in this genre. We’ve grown used to grandiose orchestral music and whimsical motifs in a Tolkien setting, one which heavily relies on medieval history. Thus, one would think that electronic instruments have no place here.
Magicsword cuts down to the roots to challenge this perception. Awakening is a heroic tale of fighting evil, fantasy at heart, but with a synthwave presentation. Constructed around a variety of synths, distorted guitars, to relay the gravity of the situation, the adrenaline, and heroism of the ones facing the creatures of darkness. Groovy bass-lines and guitars, and more traditional string instrumentation will also keep your spirits high.
Topics nod to legendary and mythological stories, creatures, and concepts, though it tries to keep the specifics a bit vague. A lot of context and detail is added via the usage of different sound effects — footsteps, tree branches breaking, heightening the sense of danger. What’s more impressive is the synchronization of these sound effects with the music, making the experience that more consistent and whole.
Awakening has its foundation cast strongly in its world, story, and concept. It is a fantastical journey that keeps you on its toes, just like an epic novel would, and realizes the same feeling of wanting to read just one more page, but for Magicsword, its rather listening to one more track.
The wicked never sleep. The darkness keeps on spreading. Will you take the sword and fight against evil?
Found this issue of Neon Index interesting? Take some time to listen to the albums!
Tracks which are most representative of the album are compiled in the Neon Index Spotify Playlist. Give it a follow to discover more albums in the future!
Are you an artist with a synth-related album, and want to be featured sooner than later? Submit here so I can share your wonderful art with the world.
This was Neon Noir, and I’ll catch you next time.