Debut synthwave albums are a dime a dozen, and more often than not, the creators behind them have precisely zero music experience — synthwave or otherwise. That lack of experience always shows, and it’s become increasingly difficult to take notice or care about releases from new artists.
But it would be a mistake to confuse Lost Night’s debut album, Rewind, for one of those.
In fact, the artist behind Rewind has an extensive music background playing in diverse genres. And it shows. A listener likely wouldn’t even need to be told about the artist’s history to recognize it in the recording, as Rewind swings from commercial pop-flavored tracks with hook-heavy chorus sections to downtempo pieces with a solemn tone that have more in common with dark synthpop than anything in the world of synthwave.
The artist’s experience in unrelated genres and willingness to try new ideas on every track is both a benefit and hindrance to listeners’ enjoyment, however, as the value of the variety on Rewind is offset by occasionally inharmonious song pairings. The album’s production can be similarly incongruous, sometimes shifting from deep and rich to stunningly bright on adjacent entries.
It’s much more difficult to find fault with the execution, which is consistently strong. Lost Night’s powerful vocal delivery hits a satisfying range of notes throughout the recording, always with comfortable accuracy, and the instrumentation is uniformly tight.
The result is a slightly lopsided but ultimately endearing creation that is worth a spin from any synthwave fan looking for something a little different.
The songs on Rewind can be broadly categorized into three different types, and it’s almost best to discuss the recording by examining the patterns that emerge from them. “Tattered Time” provides an introduction to the album, and it’s a fitting one, landing somewhere near the center of Rewind’s creative spectrum.
Listeners will notice the opener has a distinctly different feel from traditional synthwave music; it’s missing the vibrantly retro synth tones, disco rhythms, and warm production that typify the main genre. Instead, “Tattered Time” pushes into a downtempo composition with a bass-heavy vocal delivery set against a leaden, minimal rhythm. The stark composition of the track and the serious tone of the synths and vocals put a distinctly somber spin on things, and even the slightly brighter, more melodic chorus section remains firmly rooted in Lost Nights’ realm of shadowy songwriting.
It’s a grimly enjoyable piece thats sets a unique tone for the recording, and once a person has adjusted to the artist’s creative approach, “Tattered Time” becomes a valuable entry worth returning to multiple times.
A similar type of solemn, vocal-driven songwriting appears in other places on the recording, such as on “Words” and the final track, “Our Time.” In each case, the music’s heavy atmosphere and darkened tone saturate the music and can actually feel quite bleak. This tone is further accented by the lyrics, which on “Our Time” examine the ’80s not with the cartoonish nostalgia of synthwave, but with the dire recognition that our mortal hours are limited and that the era of the ’80s, along with our lives in it, is fading away.
The song feels like an unsmiling word of caution against living in the past, an idea that stands in stark contrast with the neon colors and themes of endless childhood that synthwave so often embraces.
Accenting and building on the stern vocal tracks are a handful of serious-minded instrumental pieces, and although they carry similarities to entries like “Tattered Time” and “Our Time,” they have a distinct otherworldly quality to them. The result feels like a darker and heavier take on the Stranger Things soundtrack, which is fitting considering that Lost Nights cites the show’s score as a key influence on Rewind.
“Walkman,” “We Got Company,” and “The Wormhole” each pull listeners into a gloomy audio environment laced with suspenseful synth tones and foreboding bits of percussion that lend the music a sense of mystery and possible danger. Vocal chants on “The Wormhole” accent the pounding rhythm for a somber dirge that nearly feels like a cultish anthem to the void.
Each of these are effectively atmospheric and provide a compelling bit of diversity for the album, though somehow they never quite feel like they occupy the same creative space as “Tattered Time” and some of the other darker, vocal-driven entries.
This sense of dissonance is compounded by a third and surprising type of song on Rewind’s tracklist, which is an upbeat style of pop music with a modern commercial touch. “Better Lies,” “Kill Me,” and “Keep You Whole,” fall into this camp, with “Rewind” adopting a slightly more melancholic and relaxed take on Lost Nights’ pop inclinations.
Of these, “Kill Me” is ironically the most upbeat and hook-heavy, leaning on bright synth tones and a crisp drum beat for the foundation of one of Lost Nights’ most flexible and engaging vocal performances. The song’s catchy chorus hook and lively energy are quite different from a song like “Our Time,” though they never fully lose touch with Rewind’s dark side. The song title, lyrics, and reserved vocal delivery on the verse combine to maintain a connection with the tenebrous pallet of the album’s gloomier pieces.
But it’s still an outlier.
“Kill Me” is distinct for several reasons, though one of them is the bright production style that stands in notable contrast with other entries on the recording, including “Better Lies,” which precedes it on the tracklist. The key synth melody that opens “Better Lies” is almost jarring, and it disrupts the dense and shadowy atmosphere that dominates the bulk of Rewind. This sense is compounded when “Kill Me” slides into the darkness of “We Got Company.”
As a standalone track, “Kill Me” is a well written and enjoyable piece, but it’s something of an oddity packed into the rest of Lost Nights’ recording. The same is true for “Keep You Whole,” whose stuttering chorus vocals bounce along a lighthearted rhythm for a teeny-bopper vibe that feels worlds apart from the mature tone that follows immediately on “Words.” The result causes the center of the album to feel like a compilation of music from different releases or even different artists more than a congruent selection of songs from the same album.
Some of this discord is forgiven on the strength of “Rewind,” which is arguably the best song on the recording. If there’s a single track to recommend as a lead-in to the full album, it’s the title track, and the song’s understated delivery strikes a perfect balance between the ominous blackness of “The Wormhole” with the accessible pop style of “Keep You Whole.” The result is self-assured and has the most resolved blend of genres of anything on the recording.
Considering that many new creators fall into a cookie cutter conception of synthwave music and stuff their releases with overly similar tracks, Lost Nights’ willingness to try new and different things throughout Rewind is commendable. It’s just too bad the songwriting and production styles don’t flow more evenly between songs.
That said, it’s hard to find serious fault with Rewind and its diverse selection of music. It’s an enjoyable album from start to finish, and Lost Nights’ unique creative approach has enough in common with synthwave to engage fans while offering something meaningfully different. Although none of its entries ever truly impress in their songwriting, they’re fully competent pieces with many memorable and enjoyable moments.
Rating: 78 / 100 (Good)
Song Variety: 7
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