Alongside Guardians of the Galaxy, zealous conservatism, riots in the streets and David Hasselhoff’s triumphant return, the new wave of dream pop is further proof that the 2010s are the new 1980s. Los Colognes fit right in. A breezy Nashville five-piece who’ve always had a penchant for the retro, for third album ‘The Wave’ they’ve gone full Pink Floyd. A laid-back, vaguely-concept release based around frontman Jay Rutherford’s delectable guitar work. Like a loose Dire Straits adaptation of The Old Man And The Sea.
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Though this is by no means a throwback album, the 80s influences are clear. Dealing out synthpop and late-night radio rock in equal measure, Los Colognes have crafted a release where few of the songs would feel out of place in DJ Yoda’s Stranger Things Mix. Contrasting the live-recording techniques of their previous two releases, ‘The Wave’ was constructed in the studio from the deck up. That extra attention to detail pays off, from the upbeat synths and neon drums of Duran Duran-style ‘Flying Apart’ to the brooding dystopian echoes of ‘Stealin’ Breadcrumbs’ that cry out for a music video featuring leather jackets, stage smoke and metal cages.
Rutherford’s vocals are mostly understated. Soft-sung whispers in the style of Mark Knopfler or The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, with lyrics playing on themes of the ocean, floating, and sinking into the depths. Though often compelling, they’re happy to ride shotgun for a lot of the album, leaving more space for the multi-faced keyboard work of Micah Hulscher and Chuck Foster. And of course, Rutherford’s tone-chasing guitar.
Knopfler, David Gilmour and the softer side of Gary Moore are the leviathans hiding in the depths. Rutherford cherry picks from all three, laying down sweeping, emotion-packed instrumentals right across the album. He’s at home on the more restrained chucking for the single-worthy ‘Unspoken’ or ‘Forever In Between’, only dropping in tasteful licks to fill out the space. But he’s at his finest in the spotlight, on the smooth-as-Marty-McFly charm of ‘A-Ok’ or the album’s finest track, the Pink Floyd love-letter that is ‘Man Over Bored’. It’d be an unfair gripe to say they don’t do solos like that anymore, but it’s sure a style of neck-noodling that rarely resurfaces, and Rutherford wields it like he was born to the tune of Comfortably Numb.
Whether ‘The Wave’ is Los Colognes’ best release comes down to personal taste. It’s doubtless their slickest piece of work, and taps smartly into the world’s retroistic zeitgeist. Anyone familiar with the band should find it just the right blend of recognisable and refreshing. But for anyone who ever made an 80s night-driving mixtape, or has a love for those sky-stroking solos that send ripples running up your spine, ‘The Wave’ could be a revelation.