Memory Tapes’ Player Piano

If you’ve heard Memory Tapes’ debut album Seek Magic then you’re already familiar with the calm sort of discontent Dayve Hawk weaves into his music. That emotional element is common to both Seek Magic and Player Piano, and we find more of the echo-y vocals and spaced out electronic soundscapes that encouraged the chillwave label often given to Seek Magic.
On Player Piano, where this label is certainly shed or at the very least expanded, we find a more forwardly poppy sound often with infectious basslines and choruses. Fans of Seek Magic may be somewhat put off by this venture into a more accessible structure because it is sometimes to the detriment of the unique synth-driven sound that helped distinguish his first LP.
Though it is a decidedly more melodic record, it is not at the cost of the melancholic atmosphere cultivated so well in his previous releases. Instead, it conveys feelings of depression in the face of others’ cheerfulness or isolation on a gorgeous day. “Wait In The Dark,” the album’s first single and perhaps the catchiest songs on the record, starts out with a driving bassline and sing-along vocals but, after a fantastically sparse bridge, transforms into something much more emotionally confused with strained and droning electronic tones met with the same bass and chorus introduced earlier. “This Is Our Life,” is another accessible tune that closes with a chillwave-y groove. “Sunhits” features a very bright guitar riff and vocals to match that conjure images of a summer beach. Lyrics like “Life is a dream if you never wake up,” emphasize pervasive darkness of the album even when paired with such brightness. The album does have a share of more overtly detached and contemplative songs. “Fell Thru Ice (I and II),” do this especially well with a more slowed down pace and more sustained tones. Part II closes with a very full crescendo that feels sad yet somehow triumphant.
Fans of bands like such as Small Black, Washed Out, or The Tough Alliance should give this album a try. It is a fusion of spacey electronic and straight up pop sensibilities that, at its best, is quite poignant. While Player Piano does not seem to be as cohesive of an effort as Seek Magic and occasionally drags, several of the stand out tracks will make an excellent addition to this summer’s playlist.

About Donald Placek

Right now I'm a student majoring in Industrial Engineering, but I've always majored in loving music. I'm a huge fan of vinyl and am always looking to expand my record collection. My top three things (yep, things) would be good sushi, 80s/90s indie rock, and absurd comedy, in no particular order. If you like Guided by Voices or Tim and Eric we're bound to get along smashingly.

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