British duo Futurecop! are expert purveyors of a brand of nostalgia for anyone who came up in the 80s and early 90s, tapping into the colorful, synth-laden whimsy of things such as cartoon theme songs, John Hughes films and Saved By The Bell. On Fairy Tales, they ramp it up with a blast of great cuts for anyone who finds joy in looking back at old photographs from your birthday, when you got that My Little Pony or Transformers toys, or at shots from when you hung out with your friends with innocent carelessness and thought it was the best day of your life.
Futurecop! have traditionally taken toward retro in a different fashion than Electric Youth, which uses vintage instruments for results that are, while nostalgic, also darker and more human. Instead, like College and the Valerie Collective, the duo for the most part have mined every pastiche of the era in a way that makes them sound like they just stepped out of a DeLorean with a bunch of gear. They’ve had their own modern flourishes, to be sure, but on Fairy Tales and throughout most of their career the focus has been on tapping the better angels of the most plastic elements of the 1980s.
That Fairy Tales is even identifiable as a Futurecop! album is a rather remarkable reality, given that the synthwave/retrowave genre is often home to a homogeneous pack of musicians all reliant on the same software synths. Songs like “Mermaids,” “Treehouse,” and “Till Eternity (I Miss You)” tap into the spirit of the band’s trademark instrumental numbers, creating a sonic landscape that would be a great soundtrack in the “reimagining” of an 80s flick or video game.
Where Futurecop! ups the ante is with its collaborations with vocalists. In the past, the preeminent Kristine has brought the band to star-worthy status on “Superheroes.” On Fairy Tales the likes of Mereki, on “Sun Is Mine,” and LA-based Dwntwn, on “Lost Love,” lend beautiful, ethereal vocals in a way that increases the integrity of the nostalgia factor tenfold. On each song, the singers add a little adventure to the colorful, fantastical journey through a land of mystical creatures and mythical loves. When paired with a band like Dwntwn, Futurecop! is especially good at creating poignant, heartfelt masterpieces.
The best song on the album is the closer, “Y.F.L.,” a collaboration with Lauren Brown of indie band Twin Oaks and Israeli synthwave producer Highway Superstar. It moves along slowly with Brown unleashing a subdued and serenely wistful performance that lives in the airy space with polite synthesizers, the syncopated beat of your favorite 80s ballads, melancholy guitars and the occasional saxophone.
No matter how exciting the adventure is when it kicks off, it ends on that bittersweet note. We followed our protagonists — whomever they are, maybe us? — through a colorful array of exposition, rose-colored perspectives and sugary melodies, without noticing all of that was wearing away slowly, and not always perceptibly, until finally at the end the curtain falls.
We’re left with the unsettling realization that perhaps following ourselves down the rabbit hole of fantasy will leave us with the feeling that wherever we go, there we are.
The record is out now on iTunes and pretty much everywhere else.