*Created by yours, truly*
My generation – generation Z – has been branded as the generation of nostalgia. We love all things vintage: appliances, decorum, fashion, stories, and especially music. Can you blame us, though? Our reality has been littered with nothing but stress and strife. Meanwhile, the public figures shaping our future refuse to factor in our input knowing damn well they’ll be long gone before they ever see the fruits of their crafted chaos. When you’re faced with such bleak circumstances, the only thing that provides an ounce of comfort is the idea of a simpler time – and it appears this comfort is stuck in the decades of a past we never experienced. So, in the spirit of bringing the past to the present, I want to highlight recently released songs that satisfy all your nostalgic needs. These retro songs range from providing listeners with a little taste of a given decade, to exciting fusions between multiple periods, and to finally bottling up an entire era to submerse yourself in.
10. "Midnight Hotline" - Thee Marloes
"Midnight Hotline" by Thee Marloes is a three-for-one 50’s inspired single; delighting fans of jazz, pop, and soul in one shot. Within the song, a budding love story that quickly sours is unfolded through sweet harmonic vocals, horns with a tasteful punch, and an electric piano that keeps us eager to hear more. Our vocalist is trapped in a loveless marriage but gets to share passing glances that transform into moments of bliss with a mysterious stranger. To keep this growing love under wraps, our vocalist talks with their newfound lover on the phone after midnight to avoid arousing their partner’s suspicions. It’s unfortunately to no avail, though. The partner has been keeping tabs on their connection – being there to witness every interaction between the two. This leads to a murderous end that seals our vocalist’s fate – forever trapped in a callous marriage.
9. "Falling" - Raelle
"Falling" by Raelle is a cinematic showstopper that belongs on the silver screen. The single fuses together 90s hip-hop and 60s soul. It depicts lovers gradually falling out of love. The single opens with strong, operatic vocals before it cools down into a sliding groove bass and drum-laden melody. Raelle’s rich, soft-spoken vocals narrate the breakdown of the relationship at hand. They describe the drift between the two lovers as they both struggle to admit the end of the relationship is on the horizon. But if narration isn’t enough to hit you in your feelings, the hauntingly beautiful arrangement of instruments will. The single’s immersive soundscape leaves no room for escape. Especially as the song progresses, the complications of a ending relationship increase alongside fluttering stringed notes until our artist eventually walks away from the relationship.
8. "Do Whatever Makes You Happy" - Lemonade Shoelace
"Do Whatever Makes You Happy" by Lemonade Shoelace beckons listeners to go on a journey of self-exploration to pinpoint what brings them happiness. Through psychedelic synths and hypnotic vocals, the band's advocacy for inner peace is bound to resonate with all - even the most loyal, societal conformists out there. The accompanying music video holds listeners by the hand as they venture through the song together; showcasing how the demands of everyday life (while sometimes necessary) serve as a great distraction that further separates us from the events and hobbies that we truly revel in. The musical arrangement demonstrates this idea through a slow, fade-in of percussions before awing audiences with a heavier melody. It’s a faint reminder of the gradual instrumental build-up in The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. As the single takes us further into the depths of the late 70s, the synths alongside the colors and imagery within the music video explode with vibrancy. But the transfixing guitar riffs keep us focused on the goal here – figuring out what makes us just as infectiously happy as this song.
7. "FANCY COAT" -FruitPunchLoverBoy
"FANCY COAT" by FruitPunchLoverBoy is a fusion of early 2000s R&B, funk-pop of the 80s, and modern-day electronica. The single opens with funky, squelching bass lines as the music video sees our artist step foot into the dry cleaners to pick up their coat. FruitPunchLoverBoy shows off their flare through catchy hooks and simplistic choruses that are determined to imbed themselves in a listener’s memory. And they’re all the more memorable because of the layered, filtered vocals we hear during the single’s run-time. Even the cool-toned visuals of the music video have a strong staying power with viewing audiences; giving it an air of soothing tranquility while also questioning the undertone of slight sullenness. The real standout star of "FANCY COAT" is the stunning guitar break that manages to sneak up on you - but it's a more than welcomed surprise.
6. "recruitment season" - jenny nuo
"recruitment season" by jenny nuo makes listeners nostalgic for early 2000’s power punk-pop that loaned a voice to feelings of displacement and awkwardness while growing up. And nuo’s single is no different. Soft rhythmic guitar plucking introduces listeners to feelings of shapelessness – how unformed and underdeveloped we can feel when we’re expected to advertise ourselves to colleges or workplaces during the dreaded “recruitment season”. While the drums in the chorus drive home just how frustrating the accumulation of these feelings are, and have the possibility to weigh us down even further. Our artist's direct, spoken-word vocals gives a great deal of visibility to any listener that finds themselves struggling to survive “in a very big pond” without coming out mentally unscathed. Ultimately, “recruitment season” highlights how universal this experience is.
5. "Live Your Fantasy" - Israel's Arcade
“Live Your Fantasy” by Israel’s Arcade combines surf-pop of the late 50s and mid 60s, with the synthesizers of 80s new wave. The single opens with a dynamic reverbed guitar intro that sets an oceanic tempo before thriving drums accompany it. Establishing one of the most iconic melodies I've ever heard. And all before listeners even hear vocals that would drive Morrissey to pure jealousy. The instrumental introduction forces listeners to visualize themselves riding waves and feeling the freedom that comes with doing so. And that’s exactly what “Live Your Fantasy” is all about; feeling free enough to live out your wildest fantasies without cares or concerns. When you’ve lived a life filled with pain, you can be assured that you’ve already encountered “the devil in everything”. So, why let a few little hang-ups prevent you from thoroughly enjoying yourself?
4. "Better Late Than Never" - The Sextones
"Better Late Than Never” by The Sextones doesn't just transport listeners back to the late 60s with Philly-styled strings that have the ability to sweep you off your feet - it convinces listeners that time has been reversed. Literally, I had to confirm with Google a few times just to make sure the single was released in 2023. Confirmation aside, this neo-soul single proclaims that there is no expiration date on love – however, there might be one how long we’re willing to wait for it. Within the confines of the lyrics, listeners come across a mild debate centering on how long is too long to be waiting for love. The two opposing sides are projected through the verses and chorus. The verses explain that the person on the receiving end of our love has not been reciprocating for a while – leaving us confused on where we stand. This should be enough of a reason to leave, right? But the chorus isn’t convinced. There’s still a lot of love to be experienced here; it’s just delayed. And love isn’t always reciprocated at the speed we’d like.
3. "Loser at Best" - Wallice
“Loser at Best” by Wallice details the desperation that consumes us when we yearn for love to the point of obsession. However, the person of desire in the context of the single sees us only as a friend. Resounding guitar notes carry the weight of this melody, in addition to behaving as the burning desire for love and to be loved back. But heavy drums come crashing in during the height of the chorus to highlight the destructive and impatient nature of obsession. “Loser at Best” is a powerful punk-rock single that throws listeners into the peak of Riot Grrrl culture which was sprinkled throughout the late 80s and expanded into an established philosophy well into the 90s. This song is not all brass, though. Wallice surprises listeners with a soft, indie-pop bridge to close the single. The guitar notes lighten, as the melody is now directed by violin strings - evolving the single into a sweet serenade. Signifying that while the obsession has calmed for now, it still lingers in the background.
2. "Same Thing Every Day" - The Flints
“Same Thing Every Day” by The Flints captures the experience of being stuck in a repetitive cycle and the desire to break free from it. The single makes this cycle and the desire contend with one another for an individual’s sole attention. By changing the speed of the tempo throughout the song, listeners can identify when either sentiment is demanding attention. The verses feature a drum-driven melody alongside bass lines that keep up with a fast tempo, putting listeners on the edge of their seat. It matches the urgency of our desire to get away as quickly as possible because the repetitive cycle always manages to lurk closely behind. The pre-chorus demonstrates how the cycle gradually creeps into one’s consciousness until its consumed us whole within the chorus. The slower tempo here holds the song captive in a dream-like trance with reworked synths that feature adorned tambourine chimes as the cycle forces you to experience monotony “again and again and again”. The unconventional but heavily appealing change in song structure is reminiscent of experimental euro-pop from the early 80s.
1. "Bless Your Heart" - chlothegod
“Bless Your Heart” by chlothegod is not just an open letter to former friends we ended on bad terms with, but a deep introspection on self-image. The artist’s impassioned yet delicate vocals arouse a deep awakening within the soul. But what I love the most from this voice of wisdom is their use of soliloquies. The audience the song addresses continuously shifts between former friends and the self; the accompanying music video emphasizes these shifts through gazes. When chlothegod’s gaze meets the camera, the lyrics are addressing former friends while simultaneously speaking on the persona we adopt and uphold in their presence. Meanwhile, their gaze into mirrors marks the change in audience - a hard conversation is now being had with the self. Regardless of who is being addressed, the question remains the same: “Who are you still performing for?” This single perfectly encapsulates the meta-realism and overall aesthetic of the late 90s and early 2000s. Despite being released two months ago, “Bless Your Heart” could comfortably sit on albums like The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Songs in A Minor.
Musical trips through the past are always too brief for me. I can never get enough – call me greedy. But if you’re just as greedy as me, I’ve got more in store for you. The Blast to the Past Playlist not only features the 10 songs discussed here, but an additional 40 songs for you to get lost in for almost three hours straight. Don't forget to support the artists listed here, too; most are either independent or up-and-comers that deserve so much more praise than what I can give them. In the beginning of each review, the artist or group’s name has been highlighted and linked to their Instagram accounts because the best way to support and keep up with their artistic efforts is by following them directly. Now please, enjoy the rest of your summer retro summer and stay safe.
Written by Giavanna Gradaille
*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.