There’s a lot of the past here, and not just related to whoever (s)he was that did it to him. There are influences: Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Icehouse, ‘Who’s gonna drive you home’-era Cars, but without the washy guitars, brassiness and reverb. Maybe early OMD, but with a different intent. If OMD evoked, this album bares. It’s not a new wave record either (or a neo-wave imitator of one), and not just because the sound design is utterly contemporary.
I might reach for Turner, or even Thom Yorke as a comparison, but the latter’s compositions are the exhalations of despair, like moans from the bedroom of the sleeper next door, whereas here we have composition, composure – not only the mystery, but a mastery of sadness.
How do you master sadness?
Maybe the process is like this: neglect lover, fear losing lover, lose sleep, feel sad, want to write sad song, spend all time writing sad song, neglect and hence lose lover, lose more sleep, lover comes over drunk and sad, make love, feel hate, feel even more sad, lover leaves angry, lose sleep, get urge to write sad song, etc. It’s no coincidence Junior Boys have included a Sinatra cover either. The work possesses the same nocturnal ache of a lot of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ blackest moments, torch songs for torched dreams.
Texturally and sonically though these works could also have been composed using equipment purloined from Donnacha Costello during his Colour Series phase after listening to his earlier ‘Together is the New Alone’, itself a near perfect ‘sad night’ album.
Whatever else these works sound like moment to moment, it’s the strength of the songwriting and the beautiful, desolate space this creates for the synthesizers to sing that makes this album truly outstanding. Standouts like ‘First Time’ and ‘So this is Goodbye’ (so good I have to be careful not to listen to it for fear of tears in public) prove that the sound of the human voice with a beautifully chosen synth tone is silicon sighs incarnate. This is music that understands that human beings are the softest synths of all.