THE BAD DREAMERS – Songs About People Including Myself (2018)
We always try to diversify the music featured at 0dayrox, as example, from the flourishing Synthwave retro-80s scene. On the topic of style, THE BAD DREAMERS’ “Songs About People Including Myself” is not a synthwave album, at least not in the traditional sense.
Instead it falls within the realm of ’80s melodic popwave music, blending elements of traditional synthwave with diverse external genres and infusing it with modern vocal deliveries and contemporary polished production.
The result is wholly unique to the 2010s.
Top to bottom, “Songs About People Including Myself” reveals the marks of a professional musician that is The Bad Dreamers’ David Schuler: the elaborate but often subtly addictive melody lines, the pitch-perfect vocal performances, the well executed effects, and the expertly balanced audio production.
These things are present on every track of the album, and just to sweeten the pot, The Bad Dreamers has filled the recording with a stylistically diverse selection of music.
This deliberate eclecticism is echoed in the cover art, which is practically anti-synthwave in its minimal design, black and white realism, and unadorned text.
It’s a rejection of the overly saturated neon art that has grown cartoonishly out of proportion in recent years for the synthwave genre. Instead, the image defiantly — and rightfully — declares the album to be something new and unique.
As always, the experimentation heard on the recording is neither desirable nor undesirable in its own right, though it’s always worth acknowledging these changes to understand how and why the synthwave genre has begun its dramatic metamorphosis into new styles of music.
Even more so than similar releases from Nina, The Midnight or Gunship (all featured HERE) and many more this year, “Songs About People Including Myself” has pulled away from the outrun electro that sits at the heart of the synthwave genre.
Instead of adhering strictly to ‘80s nostalgia, the album represents a bold evolution outward and onward beyond the past decade of retro synth music.
This distinction is plain to hear throughout the recording, though it’s never more apparent than on “Reach You.” The glitchy, symphonic notes that open the track are quickly joined by a soulful vocal performance that can’t be compared to anything in the realm of synthwave but clearly echoes pieces of the Billboard Hot 100 from decades ago.
The opening chorus vocals return throughout the song accompanied by full backing instrumentation, and the section works perfectly to balance the low-key approach of the verse. The result is a glossy but deceptively understated slice of contemporary pop, and “Reach You” is one of the brightest highlights on the recording.
Other entries carry slightly more retro influences, including the outstanding “California Winter” that opens the album. However, instead of the ‘80s video game soundtracks and movie scores that early synthwave artists pulled from, “California Winter” harkens back to a certain style of adult contemporary AOR music that was prevalent at the end of the decade and the start of the 1990s: the era’s releases from Kenny Loggins as example, seem to hold lineage in the track’s rolling instrumentation and expertly composed vocal melody.
Several other pieces on the recording fall roughly within the style of “California Winter,” including the next two entries on the tracklist, “Who You Run To” and “How to Disappear.” As with the opener, each of these delivers highly memorable chorus hooks without falling into the grating melodies and repetitive effects.
The strength of the music is supplemented with lyrics that manage to remain humble and grounded while being perfectly poetic. “How to Disappear” in particular is a top-tier breakup song that hits a range of emotions with a mature attitude, making it distinct from the usual self-pitying approach to the subject.
The album only adds to its uniqueness when it reveals its dark side, first on “Part Time God” and then on the absolutely inspired “Hit Me Harder.” The first of these tracks again echoes the early ‘90s, bringing to my mind the – in my humble opinion – excellent first Nine Inch Nails album, which further demonstrates The Bad Dreamers’ versatility and diverse range of influences.
“Hit Me Harder” practically justifies listening to this album by itself. As a noir-flavored narrative, it’s arguably the most singular entry on the recording, and it’s also one of the most remarkable creations to emerge from the broader synthwave genre at any point in its history. The song rejects the notion of superficial synth music, delivering a brilliantly composed track that tells the tale of a tragic romance.
It’s safe to say that “Songs About People Including Myself” is one of the most significant synthwave-related releases of the year, and possibly of the past decade.
Like other excellent recordings of 2018, the album dramatically advances the evolution of the genre, but unlike some of the most visible releases in the style, it’s filled with a healthy amount of music containing diverse songwriting approaches and thoughtful compositions.
The top-notch audio production and faultless vocal delivery further lift The Bad Dreamers to the top of the pack of current Synthwave artists.
01 – California Winter
02 – Who You Run To
03 – How to Disappear
04 – The Meaning of Life
05 – Part Time God
06 – Somewhere in This City
07 – Hit Me Harder
08 – Reach You
09 – What We Think vs What We Know
David Schuler – vocals, all instruments
All Songs Written, Produced and Mixed by David Schuler
BUY IT !