New Jersey has a bad rap. Being associated with trashy people and trashier reality TV shows may be the current curse, but let’s be honest, folks have been making fun of Jersey for a hell of a long time for one reason or another. But amid all the jokes and hassles, one can find some decent things about New Jersey. Diners are pretty popular, the Jersey Devil sounds like a fun character, and for whatever reason a lot of people liked that Garden State movie. Oh yeah, the state is also home base to Dayve Hawk, better known as Memory Tapes.
Hawk has led Memory Tapes through a few twists and turns throughout its existence. Early material (under the name Memory Cassette) was associated with the whole chillwave bonanza, but as time went on things became a little more structured. Hawk began to leave the washed out VHS vibes behind, focusing more on the present tense and bouncier productions. Once 2009’s Seek Magic was released, buzz was starting to grow. The house-fueled grooves and electro-funk feel of that album helped open the door for Hawk’s creativity, allowing him to burst through the chillwave stereotype and develop his own style. It also made for a pretty solid record.
Player Piano sees another shift in direction, and we are now introduced to Hawk’s idea of an electropop heaven. Luckily for us, this place is perfect for many, and the time of release couldn’t be better. This record just begs to be played all summer long; the majority of the tracks are fantastic bubbly head-nodders, relying on basic upbeat pop principles for the foundations while adding all the bits and pieces that helped gain the artist recognition in the first place. Synths and guitars wrap around each other while Hawk’s distinctive pitched voice floats over each song in an ethereal manner, adding a dreamlike quality to even the most straightforward tracks. Songs like “Wait in the Dark” and “Sun Hits” are perfect examples of Memory Tapes’ ability to keep a tested and recognizable concept full of pep and interest. Even the more relaxing numbers like “Offers” have enough going on so as to keep the listener exactly where he or she should be.
Interestingly, one gets the feeling that Hawk kept the idea of summer ending nestled in the back of his head while creating this work. Some of the best tracks on the album reference shorter daylight and the changing mood as temperatures drop. “Yes I Know” is a hands-down amazing song, and “Fell Thru Ice” and “Fell Thru Ice II” are also top seeds for most moving. Tracks like these wind through a different place than the others, but they help to balance everything out. We are reminded that music can make you reminisce in more ways than a forced throwback to leaky cameras and blurred photos.
So you’ll find happy moments and bittersweet memories from darker times on this record, but just like real life, it takes both the ups and the downs to create a true understanding of the whole picture. These changes throughout not only make for completeness, but are necessary in order for a record to capture so much depth. Memory Tapes has created something extremely special here, and it would do everyone good to dive into this world.