Album Review: Timecop1983 - 'Night Drive'

9 May 2018 | 9:07 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

A moody soundtrack for your lonely drives.

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While artists such as The Midnight and Gunship have been making utterly massive waves through the budding synthwave scene lately, it'd be totally remiss of me and anyone else with any vested interest in this ever-growing genre to overlook the slightly lesser-known acts that are also producing quality music. In this case, one such artist being The Netherlands own, Timecop1983.

Real name Jordy Leenaerts, the Dutch musician behind this rising synthwave moniker has been around for a little while now; releasing music as far back as his 2013 genesis. Now, in an interview with Vehlinggo back in 2015, Leenaerts stated that he wanted to "accomplish a melancholic and romantic feeling with my music", and that noble songwriting end-goal still pervades into his newest body of work, 'Night Drive'.

As the title suggests, this is an electronic journey meant to be digested as one drive's their vintage car through neon-bathed midnight city streets or other such noir-like background settings. From this thematic intent, the reverie tone and moody feel of the actual music is much as you'd expect from the style: wonderfully dreamy sonics, romantic lyrical themes, cinematic production, and minimal retro soundscapes summoned up like an old, somehow-still-in-business VHS shop.

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Similar to how The Midnight goes about their own releases, this new LP sees Timecop1983 jump between catchy pop tracks featuring some of his peers taking the vocal reigns and other air-tight instrumental pieces that nail what makes synthwave great. Switching from these smooth instrumental washes of instrumentals, like 'On The Run' or the captivating 'Cruise' (all defined by sparking '80s synths, hi-fi bass lines, percussive electro stabs, tight drum machine beats and other John Carpenter-esque sounds), to these vocal-driven synthpop tunes featuring guest artists from the synthpop world makes for a solid album dynamic. Whether it's funk-pop princess Kinnie Lane giving an airy and soothing vocal performance on 'Tokyo'; Josh Dally returning since 2015's 'Let's Talk' collaboration to sing on this album's genuinely uplifting fifth song 'Neon Lights'; U.K retrowave mates LeBrock helping out on the bright and guitar-solo loving 'Too Late'; or even The Midnight's own Tyler Lyle really bringing to life the record's opening standout 'Static' - a synthwave collab that's truly a match made in heaven. While none of that is an original idea for the genre by any means, it's an approach that certainly makes for a greater ebb and flow of the record's sound and its pacing overall.

Also, lemme just say that alongside Lyle's killer performance on 'Static', the other real standout feature here is easily scored up by L.A.'s retro-pop outfit The Bad Dreamers guesting on the album's unforgettable third track, the glorious 'Back To You'. It's easily one of the better, hookier cuts on offer and easily one of the best synthwave tracks you're bound to hear in 2018. (And man, it's Drive inspired film clip just fuckin' rules).

However, losing some steam towards the end, everything concludes with not one but two back-t0-back instrumentals in the shape of the penultimate 'Nightfall' and the more ambient-tinged closer, 'It Was Only A Dream'. Which, honestly, does feel like a repetitive double-up that wasn't really needed, as both songs could've probably been formed together to create a much better credit scene for 'Night Drive'. I also can't help but feel that perhaps locking in another singer for the latter song would've better maintained that adhered album dynamic that I spoke of earlier and also capped off this record in a finer fashion.

Also stemming from this point, there's another crucial thing to keep in mind with this 11-track release: it's absolutely nothing new for synthwave as a whole musically, and I can guarantee that you'll find countless more artists like this just by doing some cursory diving on Bandcamp or the NewRetroWave YouTube channel. These arguably small grips aside, 'Night Drive' is still one of Timecop1983's most consistent and more memorable releases to date - yes, right up there with the esteemed second part of the 'Lovers' EP.

After hearing the incredibly successful post-rock/trip-hop experimentations with synthwave that Boucle Infinite pulled off so well last year, and with the world fast approaching peak synthwave of this calibre, I do worry that this style will become far too cluttered and cookie-cutter in a very short time. But as of right now, with high-reaching artists like Timecop1983 putting out solid records into the ether like ‘Night Drive’, synthwave is still a bright shining star in our musical cosmos. One that shouldn't be missed or overlooked.

1. Static (feat. The Midnight)

2. On the Run

3. Back to You (feat. The Bad Dreamers)

4. Cruise

5. Neon Lights (feat. Josh Dally)

6. Afterglow

7. Too Late (feat. LeBrock)

8. Skylines

9. Tokyo (feat. Kinnie Lane)

10. Nightfall

11. It was only a Dream

Stream the solid 'Night Drive' below & check out the rest of Timecop1983's work over here