1. Wonder World – “Let Me In”
2. Solange – “Losing You”
3. Hundred Waters – “Me & Anodyne”
4. Chris Cohen – “Monad”
5. Mount Eerie – “Ocean Roar”
6. The Mountain Goats – “The Diaz Brothers”
7. Why? – “Jonathan’s Hope”
8. Philco Fiction – “Finally”
9. Christian Gleinser – “Coming Around Again”
It would seem as though one of the primary defining things of our current era of popular media is “Retromania.” The Retromania that Simon Reynolds wrote a book about. I haven’t read that book. I intend to. I’m an idiot. But I would also call this the burgeoning era of “The New Nostalgia” as a separately-defined aesthetic from just pure vanilla missionary Retro – something that perhaps goes above and beyond the pure aping of 80s synths or 70s horror movie tropes, in some way – tries to trade on the audience’s need for nostalgia itself in a self-aware way, or subverts the nostalgia, or combines strikingly new/experimental concepts with old retro familiarities. We’re seeing this in games – the chiptune Vangelis b/w pixelart aesthetic of Fez exploded into spinning, swirly, full-panoramic widescreen with a fetish for M83. Or the new XCOM which simultaneously manages to capture the feeling of inexorable terror and micromanagement panic of the 14-year-old X-COM game, while attempting to single-handedly resurrect the tactical strategy genre and bring it kicking and screaming into modern console AAA territory.
But here’s the funny thing about having both M83 and Vangelis as influences – we’re now at the edge of a precipice, here, and when we start the descent it’ll be like the Retro Singularity. Because in 10-20 years we’re going to have bands that are trading on nostalgia for “the M83 sound” (or the Dead Cities-era M83, even) that was left behind with a dozen other sounds of the 00′s, while the makeup of the M83 sound is openly nostalgic for, among other things, Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack. Or Stereolab is a band that people are becoming openly nostalgic for and trying to emulate – a few songs from that excellent new Melody’s Echo Chamber record come to mind. But Stereolab themselves were pretty openly nostalgic even in the early 90′s for a bunch of stuff from krautrock to 60′s french pop.
So there are layers of nostalgia that we discover like peeling the layers of an onion. If you’re scared about the state of bands trading in nostalgia right now, things are only going to get more insane as we fall down this rabbit hole – we’re going to have bands whose defining aesthetic is “Recursive Retro“, calling on a sound that’s nostalgic for a sound that’s nostalgic for a sound and so on. We’re going to need the liner notes of our music to come with footnotes and nested footnotes. It’s either going to be really fucking awesome or really fucking tiring depending on your music geek inclinations.
We haven’t even BEGUN to explore the depths of what we currently call “retro” or “nostalgia,” is my main point. Like your first taste of whiskey where you just taste the burning but then the more immersed you become and the more exposure you have to different whiskeys, the more you can draw out and delineate a deep, rich, complex flavor palette that’s worth contemplating with each sip, and the more the taste of some whiskeys seem to intentionally recall other whiskeys and expand upon their notes. Sorry I’m an alkie and it’s Friday at time of writing. Where was I. The trend toward retromania isn’t going to disappear, it’s just going to become another of the tools in our set, an assumed vocabulary that the audience is equipped to deal with, and then there’s further progression and refinement from there. We’re going to have movies that ape self-aware movies from the 2010′s aping the grindhouse aesthetic just as a starting point established within the first 10 minutes before moving on to more crazy things.
THE FUTURE IS A SERIES OF CONCENTRIC TUNNELS THAT LEAD TO NOWHERE