The four songs on the Melodic Tonic ’18 April 18th edition will transport you to another time – back to the ’80s. Drink deep from the cup of nostalgia as artists from England, Greece, and the US quench your thirst for retro rhythms. We kick things off with something familiar and very energizing.
Poptone – “Go!” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Tones on Tail, Bauhaus, Love & Rockets
The mention of Russians and spies in the news lately takes many of us back to the Cold War era of the 1980s. Politicians were equally corrupt and inept back then, but music was our refuge. One guaranteed way to keep your mind off the threat of nuclear war was to dance to British New Wave bands like Bauhaus and Tones on Tail. The latter’s 1984 hit “Go!” has received a modern update from original members Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins. Their now Los Angeles-based Poptone project (which includes Haskins’ daughter, Diva Dompe) has achieved that rare feat: they’ve improved a classic. The beats sound bolder, the bass line more pronounced, and the overall energy downright palpable.
“Go!” has one of the most infectious riffs in music. Its placement in movies and TV shows has kept its memory alive for the last several decades. This updated version – with its urgent synths and driving percussion that compel you to move – should revive its legacy for a new generation. After all, this song’s timeless refrain is just as appropriate today, so sing along: “Living it up, it’s a big deal, it’s good for you.” That lyric is more than just a little bit of history repeating: it’s sage advice set to a brilliant beat.
Sands – “Waves Calling” (London, UK)
RIYL: The Cure, New Order, Erasure
Today is probably your first time hearing Andrew Sands. (Don’t feel left out: we write about music every day of the week and he is new to us, too.) Our lack of familiarity with this British singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist means we missed his debut singles last October. Fortunately his newest release caught our attention, and deservedly so: “Waves Calling” offers much to applaud. Quite simply, this vintage-inspired tune is stunning.
What stands out most – beyond the lush ‘80s synth-pop melody – is the originality of the song. Many artists have a tendency to echo whichever bands or artists have inspired them. Not so with Sands, as his sound pays homage to New Wave legends (like New Order and The Cure) without coming across as blatantly derivative. Sands employs such rich textures here that only the faintest whiff of specific artist inspiration remains. Just when you think you detect a bit of OMD and early Depeche Mode, the chord changes and you’re reminded of Erasure or Johnny Hates Jazz. This infusion of multiple influences makes for a delicious retro cocktail sure to refresh you on a warm spring day.
Ocean Hope – “Devotion” (Corinth, Greece)
RIYL: Tracey Thorn, Alison Moyet, Morcheeba
Another new band whose sound has us captivated is Greek sibling duo Ocean Hope. If you think the best music coming from Greece these days is from Keep Shelly in Athens, think again. The project of Angeliki and Serafim Tsotsonis offers a deep blue sea of electronic-pop textures to dive into and explore. “Devotion” captures the warm breezes from the Greek isles and pairs its moonlit melody with sensual beats.
The opening strains may have you thinking about the Stranger Things soundtrack due to the air of intrigue those tones evoke. For the first half of that nearly minute-long intro, Ocean Hope conjures mystery at the start without immediately revealing where the song is headed. You can’t help but feel dazzled by Angeliki’s powerhouse vocals and energized by the surge of the synths. “Devotion” sizzles with slow-burning charm. We can’t wait to hear what other gems are on their upcoming album.
Jenn Champion – “Owner of a Lonely Heart” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Daughter, London Grammar, Stranger Things soundtrack
While some modern versions of ‘80s hits stay true to the original, a few daring artists take the opposite approach – like Jenn Champion. Sure, the Seattle singer’s take on the classic Yes hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is slower than the original, but its authenticity remains. It’s more of a space-age love song than the loose and hazy interpretation that Grizzly Bear delivered in 2006.
Once this version swirls around your headspace, all you can do is succumb to its ethereal charm. That’s because Champion (née Jennifer Hays and f.k.a. the single-letter artist, S) has vocals that leave you searching for new words to describe euphoria. You’ll come up short, unable to find synonyms that accurately convey the beauty of her voice’s restrained ache. You hear yearning, knowing it comes from a place of experience. But you also hear hope. Hearing a woman sing the lyrics “Be yourself / give your free will a chance / you’ve got to work to succeed” sounds more empowering and supportive than the original white male version. The past belonged to them; the future belongs to women, who hold each other’s hearts – lonely or otherwise – in solidarity.
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