Away From the Castle
When you sift through Spotify’s indie pop playlists, what do you expect to hear? These playlists want you to believe they’re fresh and cutting edge. They have names that are buzzy like “Bedroom Pop” or ambiguous like “Lorem.” But when you actually listen, should you expect something hand-curated by Spotify’s editorial team?
Do they really display what “indie pop” can represent? Well, not really. By now, these playlists have commodified enough that they’ve birthed their own category of music: something vaguely ‘80s, but also vaguely ‘70s. Melodic enough to occasionally have a hook that lands, but, unthrillingly genre-less.
Similar to artists like Dayglow, Still Woozy, or JAWNY, Video Age use their technical prowess as musicians and producers to create Spotify-friendly “indie pop:” glossy and amorphous music. The duo consists of best buds Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli, and together, their songs are as easy and reliable as a good friend. But when you place Video Age in a lineup with their contemporaries, as they would be on a playlist, their musical identity gets obscured.
On their fourth album Away From The Castle, the New Orleans duo stretch their musical muscle a bit with indulgences in yacht-rock and disco. “Just Think” delves into a four-on-the-floor strut. It’s an impression of Tame Impala’s impression of the Bee Gees. But they sound comfortable in a lounge-y sound, and the disco beat gives them a pep in their step. The guitar on “Better Than Ever” has a satisfying crinkle akin to Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit.” “Is It Really Over” aims for the big ballad approach of Simple Minds.
Still, Video Age can’t escape their sound. For all the one-off genre experimentations, Away From The Castle is almost too consistent, each song just memorable enough not to skip it and move on to the BENEE song that’s likely to follow on shuffle. The album is entirely self-written, produced, and recorded, and the duo’s ability to create such sleek pop is a feat of their talent. But they use their skills to make the tracklist flow as mindlessly as possible, rather than giving each song a unique identity.
The album’s best song is single “Better Than Ever,” which was inspired by Micarelli’s love of writing music with Farbe. It’s a cute ode to a great creative partner and a better friend. In its music video, the keyboardist interrupts the band’s performance to get his new synthesizer, an obscenely long monolith they named “a Buzzelo JXL.” The entire music video is a documentary about the band’s discovery of their “new sound,” and the whole thing is funny, loveable, and carefree. That’s what the album needed: a sense of humor and personality to set Video Age apart from the pack.
Order Away From The Castle by Video Age HERE
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