Nostalgia for the 1980s is slowly sneaking up on us. Mention the Atari 2600 to anyone who would remember, and eyes light up. People delight in late-night cable offerings of Perfect Strangers and Alf. TV shows and commercials make constant references to ‘80s icons. This nostalgia is quietly making its way into music, but The Academy takes it one step further. In every moment, they evoke the brightness of ‘80s synth-pop while still maintaining a new millenium sensibility.
Easy to listen to without losing its edge, The Academy alternates between sounding like they’re straight off a soundtrack of some lost John Hughes teenager movie to sounding like the best of alt-rock on today’s radio. They sound strangely familiar while still sounding fresh.
At only a half-hour long, The Academy’s self-titled album is an exercise in restraint. Opening with the catchy “Let Her Fall”, The Academy is from the beginning clearly both cheerful as well as introspective. The layers of acoustic instruments with synthesizers and the band’s thoughtful vocals create deceptively complex music. They shy away from overproduction, however, giving these songs an honest, pleasant handcrafted feel.
Their joyfulness of sound belies obvious conflicts, and The Academy puts their sorrow into simple terms. “Why is it so hard to so hard to decide to refuse or reply?” they ask on “Kiss and Tell”. Despite that most of their lyrics are phrased in common ways, they are both sincere and uncomplicated.
Still, The Academy’s poppy gentleness becomes its greatest flaw. It is a bit too agreeable in the end, and while a half an hour of this is tolerable, listening to it repeatedly back to back, the music can become a bit tiresome. The Academy seems to have some awareness of this, though, and they do leave listeners wanting more.
The Academy’s self-titled album recalls the ‘80s without falling into gimmicky sentimentality. They bring the best of ‘80s synth-pop into their music and combine it with intelligent modern rock. The Academy still needs room to grow, but the promise of The Academy says that they seem ready for success.
// Notes from the Road
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