Let me just get this out of the way: New York-based Phantom Ride’s Supersonic, released Tuesday, is a virtual masterpiece of retrosynthdom.
The album’s 10 songs are woven with the finest fabric of catchy melodies and lyrics, spinning a yarn of life and love in which drama and happiness permeate.
The collection, which comes from a relatively new artist on the landscape, avoids the bad habits that can come easily in the synthwave/retrowave genres. There’s no samey, overly machinistic routines, or revivalism for the sake of it. This isn’t a style-over-substance or substance-over-style scenario. On Supersonic, substance is the style.
Colorful hooks abound. I can’t see how people won’t be humming along to the synth leads and the guitar riffs. Nor would I be surprised if any given listener began to sing along during the choruses provided by project principal Dave Hedin and his wife, April, who often sounds like DFA Records’ Nancy Whang.
The highlight, which I’ve added to Vehlinggo’s Modern Saints and Synthers playlist on Spotify, is “Maybe I’m Dreaming,” a number straight out of a John Hughes film. The song’s synths are pretty in that pink way and the guitars are chorused and jangly like The Cure’s “Pictures of You.” The relaxed rhythms and tender vocals complete the most memorable track on the album. “When The Morning Comes,” which evokes early Anoraak, is second in line for the album’s best cut.
“Take Me There” bounces along in a showcase of straight synth-pop, evoking Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” with a gorgeous ferocity.
“The Way You Feel” has dark-edged minor-key synthesizer pads that are comfortably warm and a huge chorus that teeters into Passion Pit territory. It’s songs like this that make me think of Phantom Ride as a sort-of bridge between indie-pop stalwarts who like keyboards and synthers who write popworthy hooks.
Overall, Supersonic is one of the most exciting synthwave records I’ve heard in a while. It’s just so chock-full of a diversity of meaningful arrangements, earnest vocals, and interesting hooks that it’s impossible to not fall in love with it.
Phantom Ride has spent the bulk of his time remixing others so far (perhaps, unsurprisingly, the songs he’s remixed include those by Passion Pit and Tegan and Sara), and it’s beyond pleasant to experience his original work. I’ve embedded the Bandcamp stream below, but I highly encourage you to plop down the $7 for the download. I did, and feel better for doing so.