not since 'dreamers, pt. 1' have I been so in love with an album by 'the northern lights'. what shocks me more is that I've left it 7 months since it's release to listen to it inside and out. make no mistake, this is one of the best albums I've heard in a very long time. I think the last time I fell in love so hard was the very first time I heard 'takk' by sigur ros'.
however, i'm still trying to work out if this is a dreamwave-styled synthwave album, or a chillwave album. now I know 'the northern lights' more for their chillwave numbers so it's annoying me that I can't work it out! but I won't let that deter me from reviewing the sh*t out of this amazing compilation.
they stick with their usual rustic feel throughout the album, the kind that you hear in a lot of chillwave and vaporwave. the intro is actually a fairly subdued affair on their part which worried me at first, although there is a cool nod to French disco during the interlude that reminds me of our good friend 'justice'. oh how we owe you! 'without you' follows, a dreamwave piece with a very slow tempo and lengthened tones. it's certainly by no means a memorable track but it's very similar to the sort of tracks you would often hear at beach bars in these new-fad millennial destinations like hvar in crotia.
then the album suddenly takes off with the next song 'fast ride'. if there isn't already a music video for it, then I vote that it be of the driving-in-California-with-my-friends type. it's very poppy and wouldn't sound out of place on any mainstream radio channel. the fifth track 'screaming for love' is the first time we hear that distinct guitar we've become so used to with many of their anthems, in what is another chillpop mainstream track.
and then we come to 'best summer ever'. I absolutely bloody love this one as it has all the sounds personified by that man anthony gonzalez of 'm83'. if you haven't heard 'we own the sky by this guy, give it a whirl...there are so many similar elements between the two tracks. I love how well the big guitar chords intertwine with the shrill synths played over the top. i'm tempted to say this is the best track from this compilation, but on another day that accolade could go to another i'll mention later.
Malibu has the tempo of a chillwave track, but it feels like too much is going on in the song for it to be labelled as that. we get a beat reminiscent of an early 'Miami nights 1984' track and a healthy dose of retro guitar. 'the next two songs are quite shallow in structure, infact 'rain man' is literally a beat on repeat. the sort of stuff you hear when you're put on hold trying to cancel a direct debit. don't be deterred though! it's followed up by a really catchy melody in the track 'dreams'. although the vocals are meant to be distant, they still pack a punch and i'm adamant this one came straight out of the 80's back catalogue.
when I saw the track titled 'forever young', my heart skipped a beat as I thought I was going to be treated to a beautiful cover version of the 'Alphaville' classic. but alas it was not to be. instead we are fed an easy-listening track where once again the nostalgic guitar works hand-in-hand with cascading synth tones and sometimes hard to hear male and female vocals in the backdrop. then all of a sudden...boom! we are blasted with one of the chillest chillwave tracks of all time, and this is the other track that could be my favourite from the album...depending on the day of the week and wherever the moon is. I just realised I wrote 'chillest', i'm so white trash! like all good chillwave, it doesn't try too hard to stand out and the track is nice and long with the perfect tempo! i'll be playing this poolside on my summer holidays this year!
the last two tracks are the closest we get to synthwave on the entire album and it is the outro that I like best. much like the intro, its dreamy and understated, as an outro is supposed to be and it neatly rounds off what is a very diverse album that explores many sounds and feels. it's been a long time between 'dreamers pt. 1' and this compilation to have to wait for such a great piece of work. I just hope I don't have to wait as long again for the next triumph. if anyone in the mean time can tell me if this is a chillwave or synthwave compilation, i'm ready and waiting. 9/10 joe ward
the northern lights
best track: best summer ever
click album cover to listen