It's fair to say that Synthwave releases nowadays are coming at us like the Shinkansen straight out of Honshu. It's also fair to say that some of those said tracks are a paint by numbers scenario that in the round are pretty damn vacant. Then you have Retrochrome II and just like that order is restored in the Synthwave Universe.
Make no mistake about it, this young buck has such a command of the 80's era and the sound that defines it that in itself is a masterful stroke. You can sense he perfects every note he writes just to deliver the quality we know his fans crave and this sense of determination to get it right is not lost on someone like me who had the dubious pleasure of growing up in an era where 'Greed was good' and every Teenager screamed "I WANT MY MTV".
Retrochrome II follows on from the previous Album Retrochrome released back in August 2018 and gave us such winners as 'She's on fire' feat SJBRAVO and the title track 'Retrochrome. The newer E.P certainly feels like a continuation of sorts and solidified to a degree with SJBRAVO's re-introduction. It's certainly understandable as to why Brandon works with him so often, his vocals are sharper than a well fitting Tuxedo! So..if it ain't broke...
Right...let's go on a little journey round Retrochrome II shall we?
First up we have 'Hold my Heart' and it's catchy as heck. It's a solid opener for an E.P and sets a nice level of expectation. It's without doubt an engaging track as it's melodic and sets the tone of what for me feels already like a love note to the 80's.
The 2nd Track 'Level Up' captured me instantly. It's markedly different to the first track which suggests to me that Brandon has thought about track placement just as much as the melody itself. Unmistakably 80's again and by 1.35min in I was hooked. It's a neat little instrumental that feels not unlike the soundtrack to your favourite 80's game. It has a sense of familiarity about it that made me smile and I like that!
'Sundown' is next and wouldn't feel out of place on an 80's film soundtrack. The panpipes give it a more well rounded edge to. When used in the right context and not over-worked they are a beautiful addition to have in any song. To be fair as instrumentals go its as strong as you like and no doubt will have room made for it on a number of Playlists when released.
Track 4 is 'Lightning' feat an encore by SJBRAVO and continuing the theme of the 80's this oozes it from every air brushed pore. It's literally Syd Brack on wax (or at least it will be). It seems like one of those songs that appears over before it's began even if it is 3 minutes 24 secs long, I went in for a second and a third listen, by the forth I had to have a word with myself. The track is a metaphorical box of Pringles, once you Synth'pop' you can't stop and is a sharp contender for my favourite track off the album.
Track 5 is 'Thrillseeker' feat Sam Hughes on Guitar and it's cool..very cool. It's a confident number and it punches well above its weight. Whilst there's no getting away from the fact that its yet another instrumental, after having listened to it a few times I'd be safe in my assumption that it's the strongest one on the E.P which is brave statement considering I did like the others A LOT.
Of the remaining 3 tracks on the E.P the last Two are instrumentals of previous tracks 'Hold my Heart' & 'Lightning' with the exception of 'Miami Fresh' and what a track that is! It's a cool breeze on a Sunny day and one I'm certainly looking forward to hearing play live in the Events spaces Brandon is likely to bring the party next year!
Overall this album is a charmer. The production quality is second to none. What I will say is that I found myself leaning towards the vocal tracks on this album more as they lend a certain vibe and gravitas to it that finishes it beautifully for me. I can live with instrumentals but there's something about the vocal that captures both head & heart.
A worthy soundtrack to our Summers steeped in 80's sensations.
Favourite track: Lightning & MIami Fresh (tied)
Least favourite: N/A
Retrochrome II is available on your preferred streaming service from the 28th August 2020.
Pre-order the digital album now: https://brandon1980s.bandcamp.com/album/retrochrome-ii-ep