The number of artists making nostalgia sound refreshing and inviting has increased over the past decade. From Foxygen to Diane Coffee, Tame Impala to Whitney, going back to the future is cool again. While these musicians made some fantastic albums – even among the best of the past decade – very few have taken as sweeping of an approach as Ablebody.

Founded by twin brothers and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart members Christoph and Anton Hochheim, Ablebody’s debut album, Adult Contemporaries, crosses decades of pop music. The summery, light melodies of the ’60s are heard from start to finish. The disco- and Laurel Canyon-infused music of the ’70s add some brightness and shimmering effects. Even ’80s new wave is heard in an unexpected parts. What makes Adult Contemporaries a success, however, is not the wide-ranging influences and sounds, but how the Hochheim twins have taken three decades of music and created one, cohesive album. They achieve this – whether intentionally or not – by making the LP sound like a soundtrack to a group of individuals’ lives that span this time period. In other words, it is like the movie Singles but set over 30 years.

The opening tracks, “Backseat Heart” and “After Hours”, are uplifting, shimmering numbers that radiate of the sun-drenched pop music of the ’60s and early ’70s. Yet the songs are narratives of two individuals starting new lives after having their hearts broken. The stupendous “Gaucho”, which is infused with a stuttering disco-pop vibe, weaves a tale about a person moving on from past mistakes.

The influences of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart can be heard on the melodic, introspective numbers “Powder Blue” and “Heart Keep”. They separate themselves, however, on the rapturous “The Sun, A Small Star”, which sees the twins rev up the guitars and move away from the jangly vibes to more shoegaze and indie-rock arrangements. The three songs together tell the story of a love affair that teeters between the brink and the euphoric.

“Marianne” offers arguably the duo’s best piece of storytelling, as they capture a lost soul seeking “a way out”. With its ’80s-esque vibe and clean guitar lines, the Hochheims could be writing a song about Andie from Pretty In Pink. Meanwhile, the dark but groovy “One Day At A Time”, which is Sade meets early Depeche Mode, continues the story, describing how the protagonist is coping with disappointment once again. The song is that moment in the movie when the person walks alone at night contemplating the past and her future.

Like all great soundtracks and movies, there is a fitting conclusion. “Send Me A Letter” delivers a shimmering, nighttime pop tune that is one part Culture Club and another part The Everly Brothers. The approach perfectly complements the story line of one character moving on with her life. While there is disappointment, there is also relief that the past can be buried. On the flip side, the sombre “Wayside Glow” is steeped in regret and remorse about what has just happened. The song beautifully captures the loneliness and emptiness that fills one heart when one has left. So while one person moves on, the other is stuck in the past.

Whether Ablebody intended to offer an album that could be substituted as the soundtrack for an ’80s or ’90s coming-of-age movie is unknown. There is, however, a nostalgic feeling that permeates through Adult Contemporaries‘ eleven songs. It is not just the warm pop melodies, the synth textures, or the guitar-driven pop approach. It is the memories that the music induces. Moments that once were fleeting are once again enliven in technicolor. Adult Contemporaries may not be a soundtrack for a movie, but like great cinema it has the unique capacity to make us reflect on what was and what is to come.

Adult Contemporaries is out now via Lolipop Records. Purchase the album on Bandcamp and at the label’s store (vinyl | CD | cassette).

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Featured photo by Michael Delaney

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