Summer listening requires a soundtrack perfect for hazy nights, music to back the euphoria of perfect weather and cloudless skies. Memory Tapes‘ sophomore release, Player Piano, is that soundtrack. From start to finish, the album is rich with smooth danceable beats, proving this is in no way a sophomore slump. With just a touch of darkness, Player Piano is one dreamy, tripped-out ride.
Memory Tapes mastermind Dayve Hawk specializes in surreal electronica, with subtle instrumentals creating enchanting beats over melancholy lyrics. If the lead singles were any indication, Hawk once again combined the beauty of his beats with the grief of a distressed and lonely lover. “You said we can’t go on like this anymore,” Hawk yearns on “Wait in the Dark”, a track brimming with upbeat keyboards and twinkling synths. Fellow single “Today Is Our Life” begins somberly with steady percussion and haunting keys, eventually morphing into frantic dance beats and a surprise guitar solo. Latest single “Yes I Know” is a slow, murky tune, with palpable sadness lingering amongst romantic backing beats and far-off drums.
Player Piano was meant to be a collection of “keyboard-based psychedelic girl group songs,” as promised by Hawk. Certainly keyboard-based, the album relies heavily on the instrument to create the abstract sound Memory Tapes is so noted for. He certainly delivers on “Sunhits”, an upbeat, throwback jam, with swirling guitars, summery keys, and flashy synths. Whimsical lyrics like ”Nothing’s a dream if you never wake up” seem like a perfect fit with the playful nature of the song. “Worries”, backed by organs and sultry percussion, particularly holds up to the promised reference to girl groups.
Hawk succeeds in combining upbeat, pulsing dance beats with the emotional darkness of love. Matters of the heart don’t always equal fun, but Memory Tapes proves his beats can lessen the heavy load of heartache. Summer needs a wistful, nostalgic soundtrack, and Player Piano has stepped in.