The Synthwave Radioshow
Best track: seabreeze
click album cover to listen
"I wanna write happy, uplifting feel-good music, but 9 times outta 10 they end up melancholic and full of longing". So tweets our favourite sun-fearing relative, Vampire Step Dad. Vlad seems instead to come out when the sun is setting, at the apex where sadness that the day is ending meets the hopeful promise of a better day to follow. Over the course of seven releases, VSD's instrumentals range from imagined episodic TV cop antics to romantic ditties of first dates, suburbia, and of course vampiric goings on.
This new set of tracks thematically evoke a tender - possibly more autobiographic - storytelling; with songs such as 'Hold On', and 'This Too Shall Pass' (a song of genuine beauty) hinting at a vamp grappling with anxiety but ultimately emerging from the darkness.
vampire step dad
'The sun also sets'
Things kick off with 'Party of One', opening the album with a showcase of VSD at his most vitalic, immediately juxtaposed by the aorta-strumming longing of 'Seabreeze'. 'Disquiet' slows the pace right down with its gentle reflection, before we get a cover of Ethereal Delusions' 2017's 'Pastels and Palm Trees' which slips seamlessly into the palette of this album.
'Hold On' implores that we keep it together with a twinkling set of major chords breaking out of the melancholic mood of the piece, whilst the signature of 'This Too Shall Pass' allows us a moment to be enveloped by regret. 'Hope Springs Eternal' goes full on church bells as the track reaches it's climax, and proves the most overtly saccharine of the release, but we are with Vlad, so we embrace the emotion gladly. Finally, the all-capped AWASH plays out like a slightly foreboding and dreamlike denouement, rendering us a little on edge but ultimaty satisfied.
I recognise that VSD is an acquired taste (bite?), when compared to some of his contemporaries. Big bold synthwave, equipped for your Delorean's in-car cassette player this probably isn't. But Vampire Step Dad's humour, playfulness - and on this release - quite emotional retrowave is a genuine and gentle antidote when you need to step off the outrun - and into 80s inflected cerebration. 8.5/10 Rob Dyson