Seven years ago today, I published the first-ever Vehlinggo post: a review of College’s Save The Day EP. I know that in the past I’ve typically attached a lot of pomp and circumstance to this occasion, but this year I’d like to just do a One-Liners roundup column that focuses on downright awesome music. Plain and simple.
I do want to note a few things before going further, though. One, let’s celebrate the newest contributors to Vehlinggo — who have helped make the site a key place for in-depth interviews, even as I’ve written less of them: Rachel Reeves, who just this year has interviewed Charlie Clouser (Saw, which was coincidentally my first theatrical experience since the March 2020 lockdown); Clark (Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story); Jeff Grace (Sweet Tooth); Herdís Stefánsdóttir (Y: The Last Man); and Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist (Night Teeth). Jerry Smith, who chatted something fierce with Daniel Davies, made his premiere on these pages this year.
I want to thank all the readers for sticking around all these years. I also want to extend gratitude to the artists, labels, public relations folks, and their colleagues for keeping Vehlinggo in the know about all that’s going on and for helping to connect us with some of the most talented souls out there. Although I’ve toned down the promotional bombast the past couple of years, I will say that Vehlinggo still has a lot in store for you for years to come. There will be a printed, special-edition magazine, a new compilation of exclusive songs from amazing artists, and tons more interviews. So stay tuned and enjoy the ride.
With all of that said, here’s the music.
Highway Superstar — Contraband
One of Vehlinggo’s favorite synthwave producers is back with his first album in six years. Highway Superstar (usually but not always just Alex Karlinsky) has always brought an elevated level of songcraft to synthwave — creating songs that tap into the 1980s retro roots of the genre while infusing timeless songwriting.
Highlights from Contraband: “Feel It Right Now (feat. Doubleboy),” an effervescent and hook-laden opening cut that sets a bright tone that never fades throughout the 10-track album; “Down This Road,” a beautifully tempered mid-tempo collaboration with Sally Shapiro that will also appear in a different form on that Swedish Italo Disco project’s forthcoming album, Sad Cities; “Slow Motion (feat. Zoe Polanski),” which first appeared on the Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years comp in 2019 and got some SiriusXM play; and “Innercityscape,” an intricately woven chill fest instrumental that carries on Karlinsky’s tradition of mining urban essences for musical inspiration. (Also, a big hat tip to Lebon, who made the fantastic cover art.)
Buy it now via Bandcamp. It’s also on all the other usual platforms.
Kavinsky — “Renegade”
French artist Kavinsky, well known for “Nightcall” from the Drive Soundtrack, is back with his first new music in eight years. For single “Renegade,” he brings along with him Cautious Clay, who deftly tackles the vocal part of this Minneapolis Sound-tinged and quintessentially French Touch-laden number. Even before I learned that Victor Le Masne and Justice’s Gaspard Augé worked on the track, it had the feel of a song that bears their fingerprints: A tightly woven rhythmic strut with a cinematic chorus and a dash of filter disco. “Renegade” will be included on Kavinsky’s upcoming album, Reborn, which is the followup to 2013’s Outrun.
The single is out now on all digital platforms.
Here’s the instrumental:
Rémi Parson — Pour un Empire
Remi’s long populated these pages, beginning in 2015 with one of my favorite interviews. The French synth-pop/post-punk artist’s latest gem is Pour un Empire, a kinetic bouillabaisse of Sumneresque guitars, beautiful synths, propulsive rhythms, and Parson’s laidback, sing-talk, Francophonic vocals. As of late, folks like to compare his music to the likes of Black Marble and Nation of Language, but his albums are inherently more rock-oriented than that. Highlights include “Désorienté,” “Castor Jr,” “Les sentiments,” and “Gavarnie.” He moved to Paris three years ago after a 12-year stint in London — the sea change shows on this album, as he easily passes between the better angels of English and French musical tendencies. You can buy this digitally and on vinyl now via Isolaa Records.
Krakow Loves Adana — Follow The Voice
Berlin duo Krakow Loves Adana (Deniz Çiçek & Robert Heitmann) have released a captivating new synth-pop/dream pop album. Çiçek’s moving vocals evoke a soul-shattering humanity that easily complements the intricate minimalism of the songs’ synth-driven, guitar-tinged, and drum-machine powered arrangements. Highlights: The new version of “Follow The Voice,” which sounds much more present and organic than when it briefly was in the world a couple years ago; “I Have To Go” and its beautifully transcendent dreamweaving; and the delightfully raw “Close The Blinds.”
The album is available now on digital platforms and on vinyl.
(Editor’s Note: The One-Liners column is a concise but meaningful way to highlight Vehlinggo-recommended releases. It’s not exactly weekly, but it can be. Entries are almost never one line, but they could be. Check out the most recent One-Liners post.)
BTW, while I have you: Go ahead and buy one of the few remaining “aqua blue” 5 Years cassette tapes. Or, if you’re more of a CD person, there are a few dozen of those left. Each has a different track order (and the tape even has an extra song)! More importantly, they’re much better off in your hands than sitting in storage in my house. 5 Years has exclusives from The Midnight, Anoraak, FM Attack, Mecha Maiko, and Metavari (among others).