'hearts on fire'
Best track: hearts on fire
click album cover to listen
Let it be said that Megan McDuffee undeniably possesses one of the purest melodic vocals in the scene, but Chad Williamson (and of course the awesome Josh Dally and other cast vocalists) also have great pop-rock voices, honed as they are in delivering a set of joyous 80's sunset-soaked songs.
Tracks such as Hearts on Fire, Running on Empty (that sax lick - ahhh) and One By One share the same qualities as FM-84, in that these are superbly crafted pop songs; as radio friendly as synthwave gets. Such is the strength of the melodies, hooks and easy-entry lyrics that you cant help but conclude were the same songs presented in a country, R&B or easy listening form they would be getting stratospheric commercial airplay.
The whole album feels like a beloved project, as tune after tune immediately locks you in, makes you want to throw your headband off and walk like an Egyptian across the desks in Saturday morning detention at Maine North High School. 'Lost Souls' really showcases Rick Climans' sax playing as he takes the track home, and Megan McDuffee elevates arguably weaker efforts such as 'Come Home' into glittering pop sock-adorning, love-lorn beauty queens.
The album begins to draw to a close with the knowing 'Let's Pretend' (referencing 'high-tops', the spirit of youth and calling out the ache of nostalgia "even though we're [now] numb and jaded"; giving this old fella the feels for the long lost summers of the 80's I didn't actually enjoy.
And then, finally, we are hit with an unexpected beloved 90s banger - Underworld's 'Born Slippy' - most closely associated with Danny Boyle's 1996 movie of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. But Moonrunner83 re-positions this as a jaunty radio friendly pop record, providing a new secondary melody and gentle house-claps whilst keeping *that* signature oscillating synth sustain.
Essentially, there really isnt a bad track on 'Hearts on Fire', and it's hard to fault as a clear feel-good synthwave standout of the year so far. A big congratulations to a labour of love and here's hoping there's a big UK tour in the offing. 9.5/10 Rob Dyson