L.A./Toronto-based synth pop duo Electric Youth – aka Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin – have quite the history behind them: they have been making music together since 2009, but have been dating since they were in eighth grade. Their star as a band rose in 2011, when their collaboration with French musician College, ‘A Real Hero’, appeared twice on the soundtrack of Ryan Gosling neo-noir thriller Drive. Wisely enough, instead of rushing an LP and risking turning into a one-hit wonder, the duo took three years to carefully record their debut album, with Peter Mayes (Empire Of The Sun) and Erasure‘s Vince Clarke lending a hand with the production.
In a way, Innerworld is the full-length 43-minute version of ‘A Real Hero’, with Garrick’s arpeggiated synths and Griffin’s sweetly melancholic vocals carrying on the syrupy ’80s pop theme set by their hit song. In fact, the whole album, from its analogue sound to the album cover where the kid versions of the duo walk hand in hand, betrays a longing for that era. A fact not all too surprising for a band named after a 1989 album by a US dance pop star, and who have a cover of ‘Faces’ by Italo disco artist Clio amongst their earliest repertoire.
Although united by a similar structure and sound effects, the tracks on Innerworld manage not to sound tediously repetitive and there are a few that stand out, painting their own unique soundscapes. Opening track ‘Before Life’ lifts the album up with its shimmering, cinematic dream pop; while the following track, ‘Runaway’, is a touching electro ballad inspired by Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. Later on, numbers ‘Without You’ and ‘The Best Thing’ provide absolutely catchy dance hooks; and of course ‘A Real Hero’ tops it all off, aptly put at the end of the album as a much-anticipated culmination.
The record does suffer from lack of experimentation, which has ultimately lead to a few fillers. Tracks ‘Innocence’, ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Another Story’ wander off with no hooks to grab onto, and the drab cover of John McGlynn’s ‘If All She Has Is You’ does not go down too well as a mid-album treat. However pleasant they may be, the sugary synth tunes that course throughout every song on the album are not varied with anything, and there were times while listening to them when I found myself wishing to hear some more dynamic aggressive sound, or a drastic shift in tempo, or any other sonic equivalent of driving off from the main road into some dark back alley.
Overall, Electric Youth’s Innerworld is a rather enjoyable chillout album with a nostalgic 80’s vibe to it that in its structure resembles a concept album. It is a promising start for the Canadian duo, but we have yet to see whether they have other tricks up their sleeve, or if their talent only lies with the retro melancholic synth tunes.
Innerworld is out on 29th September via Secretly Canadian.