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Synth Album Review: "Can We Talk..." by Manhatten

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.


Initial Impressions

Manhatten’s Can We Talk… caresses the ears and touches the heart with a mixture of gentleness, melancholy and soft emotion. There’s something laidback and summery about the album, but there’s always a little ache about the music that adds something wistful to the music. The easy wash of sound that fills the music doesn’t detract from the emotive qualities inherent in the music.

One of the first elements that stands out to me about Can We Talk… is the mixture of synths that Manhatten uses on the album. There’s an overall palette of glowing, shimmering and flowing sounds that create a swirling, ethereal atmosphere and a feeling of gliding ease. The tremulous warmth of the synths add to the relaxing but slightly pained feeling that I got from the music.

The quality of Manhatten’s melodic writing on the album is another strong factor for me. He creates melodies that have a dreamy quality to them, even when they’re more dynamic. There’s an ease to them, but one that is tinged by feelings of yearning and melancholy. There’s deeper emotions in the melodies that makes them poignant for me.

Manhatten’s guests on Can We Talk… add to the high level of the music on the album. Mayah Camara and Drew Gowan (The Last Years) both contribute their unique voices as singers and songwriters. They both provide strong vocals and emotive lyrics to the songs, only increasing the touching quality of the music on the album for me.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“FM all day” comes to life with a piping, ethereal arpeggio moving delicately over the sound of a radio scanning stations and into sweeping airy space. An easy drumbeat smoothly moves the track forward and the cosmic arpeggio is joined by a higher sparkle of sound over the throbbing beat. A string-like, medium-high, shimmering synth carries an energetic melody while ripples of pipe-esque synth move and deep bass oscillates. I enjoy the summery ease that flows from the music on this track.

A cascading melody falls from the string-like synth and shines over the swirls of sound moving in the background. The round, sparkling pipes drift with a gentle feeling over the whorls of airy synth move over the bass and drums. There’s a return to the “A” section melody and rush of radio static as the pipes drift far off and again the main melody spins in over the smooth drums.

Bouncing, medium-low synth and a glitter of metallic sound carry a wandering melody to open “VCR” over the steady drumbeat and lower, shifting lines of synth. The metallic glow dances over an ethereal, hollow synth that flows in a delicate glitter. I am drawn to how full of light this music happens to be.

Thick, low synth with a slightly rough edge shifts underneath the whorls of smooth synth that carries the roaming lead melody. Rich, shiny synth chords move to support the flowing, gliding, open feeling synth that carries a soft, repeating line. An echoing pulse flows out into the open space around it as misty, ghostly synth floats and the beat throbs, adding energy and shape to the music.

“Screen Time” begins with a shivering pulse of sound that quickly breaks into a gliding, deep drumbeat. A round feeling, gentle line of limpid synth moves over the drum heartbeat and an oscillating line of gruffer low synth carries the lush, soothing melody.

A fragile, caressing pulse of medium high-synth is joined by a higher melodic pattern that croons with melancholy and an aching touch. I like the tremulous, tentative feeling in the melody as it shines out through the track over that oscillating bass. A chiming series of notes now flows into a medium low, synth with rounded edges and a deep bass pulse as we fade out.

A shadowed, propulsive, angular bass line kicks off “Satellites” over the strong throb of the retro drums. Full, nasal synth carries a gently dreaming melody that winds its way through the track. A lost, robotic voice drifts over the oscillating bass. I am enamoured of the smooth flow of music as radio communications crackle in the distance.

The melody combines warmth and dynamism in equal measures while the big, retro drums pulse and a gently mooching easy line of elevated synth dances. Drums and an angular, driving bass line shift while more cosmic drifts of synth slide into the track.

The lead melody is full of lambent light and every musical element slides over the throbbing beat. The robotic voice moves through again and the crackle of radio transmission moves over the dark throb that becomes more intense and then fades.

"Wired To Each Other” kicks off with solId retro drums and a weighty bass pulse. These elements are joined by flowing clouds of gentle synth and Drew Gowan’s trembling vocals. The the glowing main melody is carried on a golden rope of shining synth over the deep pulse below it.

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Drew Gowan’s voice calls out and caresses as the shimmering sonic rope twines in and through the vocals. Jack Wood’s electric guitar cries out, bending and soaring, over the huge drums. There’s a leaping energy to the guitar as it moves, arcing up and crying with passion and the deep bass pulse goes on and on.

This song speaks to the powerful connection in the relationship that is its subject. The narrator talks about how the “pale glow of our lifeline shows that we’re wired to each other.” There’s a beautiful image in the lines, “soft light, shadows thrown now” as they are emerging from the other side of them.

There’s hope as our narrator talks about knowing that they’ll “grow together and become one.” He asks, “Can we talk about it now and forever?” There is a mutual understanding of each other as they remain wired to each other.

Faith fills the words as the narrator says, “I know you.You’ll show me we’re coming out the other side.”A sense of intimacy is expressed as the narrator says, "We lost ourselves inside, inside one another. We lost ourselves tonight, tonight to each other.”

A soft swirl of chimes, thick deep bass and truly gigantic drums open “Make Me Real”
with an airy flow of sound and an elevated line of shimmering synth. Mayah Camara’s voice smoothly wraps around the listener’s ears as the drums pulse.

Deep chimes, full and round, move through the track. A higher synth drifts as Mayah Camara sings an aching, yearning vocal melody. Warm synth glides with rich light as the dense drum pulses.

The words of the song are so well-captured in the vocals and the relaxed, full sound of the chimes flows into open space. The deep bass throbs as the higher parts intertwine, chiming and shining, adding a lush feeling to the song. Mayah Camara’s vocals are the best part of the song without question.

Loss and need fill this song with deep melancholy. The narrator starts by saying she is “lifeless in this state, so far away from great” and adds that she is numbed by the situation. She talks about how “the sun doesn’t rise in the morning” while she waits for the phone to ring.

She says there’s a “flicker of hope deep inside” and she know she won’t regret it but adds, “I can’t reach for you with my hands tied tight.” I am drawn to the imagery in the lines, “So many possibilities play on the drum that makes my heart beat" as she talks about how those possibilities will give her “the life to make me complete.”

There’s a plea in the words, “If only you could make this stony heart of mine beat again so I can feel” as she asks to be made real. As the song closes she asks, “Would you let me feel? Won't you make me real? Tell me what's the deal?” as she wants to “take the wheel now.”

“Thinking About You” comes to life as a smooth, steady beat pulsates under the pan pipe synth that carries a gentle, airily flowing melody. Dense string-like synths flash with a sharper edge below the hollow glide of the pipes and the drum beat drives on. There’s a depth and richness to the sound of this track that I find quite lovely.

Cold, almost robotic vocals repeat and the dense, bright synth notes move in a climbing pattern.The pipe-like synth adds its open voice over the jangle and shine around it, calling out in an ethereal tone. The smooth drums keep moving the track on and the sharper, more intense synths intertwine and cascade. The cold voice contrasts with the melancholy and lost feeling of the pan pipes.

A driving drumbeat, heavy and propulsive, shifts under medium-high, rich synth patterns to start off “My Escape.” The relentless beat drives on while clouds of synth rise up and the bass pulses under the misty, elevated synth. The lead synth is full and shimmering as it carries a needy, emotive melody.

The track drifts into a segment with a distant, gliding synth that revolves into open space over a throbbing bass oscillation. There’s a brief stutter of sound and that classic beat goes on as a high, electronic line of synth buzzes as the rising melody grows and the dense drums keep on moving.


Can We Talk... is an album bathed in a glow that is both gentle and sad. It has a smooth flow to it, but there are moments of intense emotion that move it beyond summer chillout music and into a realm of something more wistful and touching.

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