High Tides’ self titled album drips with melancholy. There’s no other way to really describe what Warren Kroll and Steven Lutes accomplish with their sun-drenched synths and oddly Florida-centric imagery. The alluisions to childhood summers spent in neon-encoated, rotting tourist attractions are upfront, as the album begins with the soft cooing of faraway seagulls on opening track “7 Mile Beach” and fades slowly but surely into delectable, amusing, and faultlessly wistful chillwave-flavored pop.
For many of those in the 20-to-40-year-old set, the 1980s and 1990s shine with a sort of untouchable, barely describable nostalgia. And as 1994 drifts farther and farther into the past, chillwave starts to feel different – this isn’t the memory of things that have recently come to pass – this is reminising over images that may or may not be accurate about events and places that existed more than 20 years ago.
This distance only adds to the soft sadness that completely infiltrates music like High Tides’, and it’s what makes tracks like “The Beach Elder” and “The Sunset Tanz” more than oddball pseudo-dance-pop songs. Layered synths and continually shuffling percussive bass are old tricks of the trade when it comes to electronic music, but the way that High Tides uses them makes them feel new.
High Tides has a number of gorgeous instrumentals, chief among them “Coastal Cruise ’86,” which just feels like the memory of a fleeting time that probably never was. The cruising, pulsating beats over a chilly, forever flexing undertones make it a beautiful listen, even if it does leave you hankering for a time when you were eight years old and barely capable of remembering anything other than the plastic, brightly colored clothing you dressed your Barbie in.
Some of the tracks are more “concrete” pop songs, at least by structure. “Blurring My Day”, “Face Breakout” and “Eruption” sound a bit like music picked up by an unholy time-warping radio. “Face Breakout” is a prime example of the irreverant, although not overt, humor, that peeks out and about High Tides throughout the duration of the record. Upon listening to the lyrics closely, it seems like the song is, very literally, all about being concerned that your face is going to break out.
“Eruption” is a stunner, a weirdo song about confidence, or something. But the actual meaning of the song is meaningless in comparison to marvelous way that it manages to sound like a Michael Jackson meets Dan Deacon composition. With those perfectly sharp beats and mesmerizing rhythms, the song pulsates with something good, although to put one’s finger on exactly what that is might be an impossible task.
High Tides is a weird, fun little record. It’s like finding some faded souvenir trinket in the grimy pocket of an old coat when you’re packing to make an epic move, or cleaning out the house of a dead relative you didn’t really know that well.