music

New Releases: Nostalgic Bops For When We Used To Be Able to Leave the House

April 26, 2020

Mark Yin

Listening to these songs should be the closest you come to leaving the house until the pandemic ends. Please please please for the love of god stay at home.

It’s day whatever-it-is of isolation and you’ve just tried yoga out of desperation. We’ve all been there by now. They say that, in a time when all you want is to be able to go outside again, music helps. It helps you remember what life was like Before All This. 

Some of these artists are local heroes, others are global superstars. Some of their songs are filled with 80s synths, others draw influence from the eclectic sounds of the 2000s, but what their music has in common is an evocation of simpler times. Of times before COVID-19, at least. 

‘Soft Touch’ by Willing

It’s a pop rock anthem for cosmo girls everywhere” and “the sort of song you can hear playing on dive bar jukeboxes twenty years from now”, as the artist himself states. The latest release from Willing, a Melbournian-turned-Londoner with a debut album currently in the works, ‘Soft Touch’ is a slow burn, creeping up on you with its after-dark, urban narrative and drum machine sounds plucked straight from the 80s. “Slow down for a moment boy” he croons as the song builds towards a climax that’s a little anachronistic, but not at all unwelcome. The upcoming album promises to adequately line jukeboxes for years to come.

‘Cool’ by Dua Lipa

Continuing with the 80s theme, or just a shameless plug for the New Testament of retro-inspired pop? Dua Lipa’s recent releases have stormed the internet with a viral TikTok dance and a level of Twitter fanaticism rivalling that which surrounded the Old Testament (Carly Rae Jepsen’s E·MO·TION) back in 2015. Her sophomore album draws on a range of influences from the past few decades, but it is the 80s which come through most strongly on track three, ‘Cool’. The title, and the singer’s consistently aloof image, belie the slick production, groovy kick drum and lyrical content that could’ve been a deep cut in a lost Olivia Newton-John record. 

Pale Blue Dot/Lift Off by LUBOKU

LUBOKU’s 4-track electronia offering was released on the 30 year anniversary of the ‘pale blue dot’ photo of the earth, as described by Carl Sagan in February 1990. Sampling Sagan’s voice, the opening track’s fast-paced timbre evokes the relentless pace of scientific discovery which made its namesake possible. On the other hand, the single ‘Lift Off’ picks up house influences while exploring the same themes, notably the paradox that human actions can be so decisive yet so insignificant in the grand scheme of things—as relevant then as it is now. 

‘Wake Up Sunshine’ by All Time Low

We’re gonna do a bit of a 180 here and pivot to 2000s garage. A staple of that era, All Time Low’s latest release demonstrates a commitment to the unmistakable pop-punk sound that launched their careers. Everything about the title track transports you back in time, from the spirited guitar opening to the way it yields to the first line, “alive in the age of outrage and outrageous behavior / they say it’s a callin’/ are you livin’ well in a livin’ hell?”. Yet, this is also a perfectly apt vignette of 2020 so far. In any case, we could all use the song’s nod to better times, and its call to action for us to “wake up, sunshine”.

‘Never Let Me Know’ by The Gusset

WA band The Gusset combines garage and punk influences with insouciant, high-reverb vocals and a hearty plucked bass; hallmarks of the surf rock subgenre that swept the world in the 60s. This track, they say, “heralds a new chapter for the band”, though it is a new chapter which draws on the distinct languor and the quintessential images of summer evenings past. The song’s warm production and melodic vocals are interspersed with just enough head-banging moments to make this a nostalgic anthem for the ages. Again, the lyrical content is bitingly relevant: “I don’t want to find the time / to waste it all”.

‘Can of Worms’ by Freya Moor

Remember Colbie Caillat? For some, the name alone conjures its own wave of nostalgia; for others like Freya Moor, Caillat’s sunny, country-esque material forms a source of inspiration for their own work. On ‘Can of Worms’, the gentle acoustic sound and unassuming, effortlessly bright vocal delivery pack a hefty dose of girl-next-door charm, and the Melbournian singer-songwriter’s debut EP has plenty more where that came from. 

‘Stupid Love’ by Lady Gaga

Believe me when I say I tried really hard to resist the urge to include this song, but honestly it’s only been a month since it came out, and never has the world needed Gaga to return to her late 2000s dance roots than it does now. It’s been almost a decade since she stepped anywhere near the genre (and some would even prefer to forget 2013’s Artpop), but this song is so easy and exhilarating on the ears. Does it recapture the magic of the Fame Monster era? Maybe, maybe not. But does it handily fill some kind of void in a year that’s just been so listless? Add it to a playlist and see.

‘Undress Me’ by Alana Joanne

Maybe late-2000s dance music is just what the world needs right now—a Melbournian since 2014 and a self-described “pop/R&B luminary, Alana Joanna’s sound follows a lineage that does indeed trace back to the late 2000s. She cites Lady Gaga and Kesha as two of her inspirations, and her music is also reminiscent of Hilary Duff’s flirtation with dance on Breathe In/Breathe Out. ‘Undress Me’ is a single that blends these influences with a message that is as empowering as it is straight-up horny—maybe just what the world needs right now? 

‘Back To Me’ by Lindsay Lohan

If we’re talking nostalgia, who could be more nostalgic than the teen idol of the 2000s herself? Lindsay Lohan’s new single has been heralded as a “ray of light” in these dark times—in it, she draws on the steady rhythms and electronic production of late 2000s dance music in a bid to create an anthem of reaffirmation. Though the lyrical content is undiverse, there are moments of cutting self-awareness and current, relevant nuggets of inspiration: “Now these Sundays got me feeling like Mondays / I know I drink too much, but it’s okay.” 

Bottoms up dear reader, chuck a few of these in your playlists, and see you outside again someday.