Album Review | 'After the Night' 

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As a young child in the ’80s, my perception of the era’s music was as an idealized dreamscape, unsullied by the darker realities of adolescence and young adulthood yet to come. “After the Night,” a new six-track EP from Soviet Dolls released on October 31, is the most blatantly nostalgic music I’ve heard in recent memory, and perpetuates that dream. Instrumentalists and co-producers Matthew Cavallaro and Greg Stella continue to mine retro sounds with Emily Brown providing smooth, stardust-sprinkled vocals.

Since its first EP, 2014’s “Secrets, Lies,” the Rochester group has leaned mightily on various electronic keyboard sounds to propel its dance-friendly sound. The earlier music was moodier and more modern-sounding, particularly when it came to the vocal melodies of previous singers Hannah Gouldrick and Alex Wendt. Any sense of the 2010s is abandoned on “After the Night” — gone is the prevalence of stepwise melodies found on the band’s full-length debut “Dream in Rhythm,” and in its place are Brown’s subtle vocal jumps that, while unpredictable, are easy enough to follow.

The hazier the sound, the more retro the music. The EP’s opener “Not So Desperate” features the sputtering rhythm of the chord progression as an arpeggiating bass line, employed with hypnotic results. The vocal melody and lyrics sound like they could have been pulled from a Debbie Gibson demo.

The title track, “Hooks,” and “Younger Still” all build on the first song’s reverb-soaked mystique and heightened romantic stakes. The entirely instrumental track “All Night” and mostly wordless “Gossip (I want you now)” add emotional weight to the collection in anticipation of the cathartic payoff. If you’re looking for freshly made music to magically turn back time several decades, “After the Night” is a great place to start.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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