If you’re like me, and instantly recognize and remember the days when computers needed those humongous floppy disks like the one pictured above, to do their thing, then you will no doubt also remember the days when the likes of the Commodore 64 and Colecovision were the hottest, must-have tech gadgets. Chances are, you also remember the days when synth-pop ruled the airwaves of mainstream radio and dance clubs everywhere. Reagan was in the White House, and ‘Miami Vice’ was on the tube.
While those days are long gone, and the technology is long obsolete, the music that helped make that glorious decade great, is alive and well in the form of the mind-numbingly good, ‘Like Totally’, the debut album by new multi-national synth-pop duo, Pacific Deep.
Pacific Deep is comprised of vocalist/synthesist/guitarist/programmer, Carl Grace, and synthesist/synth-wizard extraordinaire, Raymond Hayter. Both gents are seasoned synth-pop veterans with a firm passion for that classic synth-pop sound that so many of us adore. A little background on the men behind the band reveals that Carl, hailing from the Bay Area in California, and Raymond, who calls New Zealand home, are a pairing made in synth-pop heaven.
Raymond Hayter explains their origin thusly:
“Carl Grace worked in the high tech industry in California, and part time was a composer and multi instrumentalist (vocals, keys, guitar), with a band and solo work under the name Some Desperate Glory. I worked in the software industry in New Zealand, and was a part time composer and computer musician in my home studio. Both Carl and me primarily used Propellerhead Reason DAW and virtual instruments. And we both posted our music onto Soundcloud.
About a year ago, I released an instrumental tune called “Natural Progression”. It was primarily a collection of disjointed riffs that I like, strung together into a semi-cohesive track. Natural Progression was recorded using Propellerhead 6.5, not long after Reason supported rack extensions, and it featured a hook that used the very cool Korg Polysix rack extension.
Carl happened to come across this tune, liked the Polysix riff, and e-mailed me asking if I was open to a collaboration, whereby he would change the arrangement around into a song, and add vocals.
I was thrilled and flattered that someone actually listened to my tune, let alone was interested in dusting it off and enhancing it – and was quick to take Carl up on his offer! Carl did a great job writing the song, adding vocals, and enhancing the arrangement.
That was the start of what has become the Pacific Deep collaboration.
Since then, we have been jointly writing new songs – Carl always on vocals and lyrics, and both on keys, drums/perc, arrangement, mixing, production. Collaboration to date has exclusively been through e-mail and Dropbox.
We haven’t yet actually spoken to each other!”
How cool is that?!?
Raymond goes on to say that, “Both (of us) immensely enjoy music of the 80’s, especially synthpop, and this has become the default style for the music. (We) also fondly remember the Commodore 64 computer, which featured in the album art for the Like Totally album. The cover photo is one of Raymond’s actual 5 1/4 inch C64 floppy disks from my garage!”
This immense enjoyment of 80’s synth-pop of which Raymond speaks, is immediately apparent from the first few bars of the opening track on their album. Like Totally is a damn-near perfect case-study in retro synth-pop. It’s a sheer delight to listen to, and pleases the listener on every level. The lyrics recall the best work of Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys fame, in that they’re intelligent, witty, and sincere…… with just the right twist of sarcasm & cynicism when called for.
To be perfectly honest, Carl’s lyrics are some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in recent years. He does what any outstanding lyricist does, he speaks from the heart. It’s very refreshing to have such sincerity packaged in a bouncy and upbeat album.
Furthermore, Carl’s vocals have an air of fragility and vulnerability to them. He’s no power singer. He doesn’t belt them out like Dave Gahan or Andy Bell. Rather, he delivers his craft with more of a lovely, smooth, crooning style. His voice is gentle and airy, which matches perfectly with the musical background it’s painted around.
So how about the music?
Well, I’m glad you asked! The music is tight, punchy, and infectious as hell. World-class synth-pop needs to have hooks and melodies that get your feet tappin’ and your head bobbin’. Pacific Deep does both with such effortless, graceful ease (no pun intended, Carl!), it’s almost sickening. I’d compare their sound to the best of Anything Box-meets-Pet Shop Boys by way of Erasure, with just a dash of Harold Faltermeyer and Jan Hammer. In other words, it’s gloriously retro!
The whole album is a must-listen experience. Every track should be given proper attention by the listener. There’s not a single filler track on here. However, there are a few stand-out tracks I’d like to call out:
Beyond Repair – This is the perfect lead-off track for the album, and serves as a brilliant introduction to what lies ahead for the listener. It’s got a solid chorus that will leave you humming the melody for hours after you’ve listened to it. It’s a splendid anthem for the disaffected.
Finding What You’re Looking For – Another splendid sing-a-long chorus with a killer melody, with some great jaded lyrics meant for that special person in your life who needs a swift smack up-side the head.
Night Fable – Quite possibly the most beautiful ballad I’ve heard in years. The words chronicle the struggles of a love-lorn couple trying to sort out their baggage. Another splendid melodic chorus with this one. Of particular interest with this one, is that it was produced by NYC-based producer, Ed Castro, who operates under the moniker of GEM. Castro is a synth-pop genius in his own right, and his touch here only deepens and sweetens the awesome sauce on this track.
As amazing as the afore-mentiond tracks are, the rest of the album is no less fun to listen to. It’s one of the rare indie releases that makes you wonder WHY nobody has picked them up yet. It’s got it all: Slick production, great songwriting, and melodies that will leave any synth-pop aficionado swooning. I’ve had three full months to listen to this album before I reviewed it, and it gets better each time I listen to it. I notice new things each time. It’s a true work of electronic art.
With a debut this solid, they should be around for a very long time. I’m over-the-moon for this band, folks. Give them a good listen, and you will be too.
I’m awarding Like Totally five out of five stars. It’s an album that represents everything good about synth-pop, and it’s a solid effort from start to finish. This is an album that should withstand the test of time and defy any and all trends in what is or isn’t hip. Coolness doesn’t need to be hip. And this baby is as cool as they come.
You can purchase this wonderful album via Bandcamp.com:http://pacificdeep.bandcamp.com/album/like-totally
You can also follow them on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pacificdeepmusic
Show these boys some love & SUPPORT INDIE ARTISTS!
Jimm Kjelgaard – October 2013