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Synth EP Review: "After Life" by Unroyal

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Unroyal, After Life (EP)

Unroyal, After Life (EP)

Unroyal’s After Life combines strong vocal performances, energetic synth work and thoughtful lyrics in a well-produced synthpop package. This is music that encourages contemplation, while still filling the listener with the need to move their body.

"After Life”

"After Life” begins as high, distorted sounds tremble and twist. Hard-hitting, slowly oscillating synth moves against hissing static sound and the throbbing bassline is tinged by Adam Olofsson’s powerful, emotive voice rises over the pulsating drumbeat with the snare forming a steady ticking motion.

Jakob Algesten adds more strength and pained emotion to the music. Elevated lead synth carries the melancholy, majestic melody that soars out over bass throb and shaping drums. Glittering light suffuses the music with soulful feeling as the beat glides on. Round synths all swirl together into a sunset glow as hopeful emotion bursts out from the vocals.

This song is a message about nostalgia, loss and hope for new chances. The narrator says that they and the song’s subject are in the place “where our journey took its start” he adds that “the ceiling is the same” and he is too. Now he’s at a bar where the staff is kind to him as they “know my heart and they try to light me up” but they didn’t know him “when the battlefield was mine.”

Our storyteller talks about how they “used to dance on whirling stages” and he wants them given back. He talks about his sorrow adding “I’m just a disco dancer.” Addressing the other person who is “alone in a middle age nightmare.”

He points out that for them freedom’s not free and they are running out of time which is why “they call it after life.” He realizes that he’s seen love enough times not to know what it means. The storyteller says that the question will remain and “after all you’re still the only measure of my dreams.”

He repeats the idea of dancing on whirling stages adding that it’s a shame that “you couldn’t see the virtue was mine.” Now the narrator reiterates that he’s a “simple disco dancer” as his life is “sliding through static ages” but the “dying isn’t me” and he still has time so “I won’t call it after life.”

“The Other Side of Me”

Distant, full synth echoes out over a jumping, tapping drumbeat and flowing bass to start “The Other Side of Me.” Digital sounding, elevated synth smoothly trickles in a repeating pattern and dense, rough edged sounds volley back and forth. Adam Olofsson’s voice carries a fragile melody and fills the vocals with tender emotion while the drums stutter and the low, full synth rebounds.

A quick flicker of piano-like notes dances and a medium-low synth bounces through. Again steadily shifting, medium-high synths gleam with a digitized feeling. Adam Olofsson's voice overflows with intensely felt emotion and unevenly pulsing synths are joined by reverently moving notes. Digital sounds float and jump as the drums and bass shape the track before it winds down.

Our narrator says that he knows the other person wants to leave because “I can hear it in your voice, you’re talking slow” and he’s experienced it before. He adds that he doesn’t blame the other person because he’s not that strong. He wants them to “let the winter in and please let it be long.”

The storyteller says “this is real” and asks the other person to hold his hand one final time and tell him what they see as “your life has reached the other side of me.” He knows that the song’s subject is afraid to ask but wonders why.

He points out that it isn’t like him to be afraid to lose the other person. He adds that the other person has “a dream of freedom” so they should speak and let him bleed. He concludes, “I am so fed up with your belief that we can heal.”

“I Wanna Be Your Problem”

“I Wanna Be Your Problem” opens with Adam Olofsson’s resonant voice echoing out into open space. Luscious, deep synth pulses flow out and begin to create forward motion underneath the expressive vocals. A ringing, repeating sound joins the synth pulses now.

Slightly distorted, organ-like synth carries hopefully bouncing melody over the quickly throbbing drums A spinning, stuttering synth tumbles below rising, gentle vocals. After a chiming sonic wash, organ-like synth sings the warming, yearning man melody as Adam Olofsson emotes with conviction. Drums pulsate as digitally shifting sounds flicker along before the song ends.

Sometimes risks must be taken for relationships to work. The narrator makes it clear that he’s tired of being lonely so he wants to “explore what’s behind and beneath our bound to burst-type dialogue” He says he doesn’t want to say anything out loud but he thinks the other person will remember. He adds that the other person knows “this scene by heart” having been loved before.

Our storyteller tells the other person that he wants to be their problem and their love. He says “I’ll be there if you want me. I wanna have it all” and asks if the other person’s ready for love. He points out that he doesn’t want to “do this all alone” because he still has dreams he wants to show the other person. He says that he’ll “let you have them, straight and raw.”

The narrator tells the song’s subject “you know I need your eyes” to make his dreams real. He says that he knows he’s not much but “I am yours to keep and I ignore the world outside.” As the song comes to an end, he states “Wrap your arms around my heart and take whatever’s left of me.”

“My Heart Is Gold”

Quickly tapping kick drum and gleaming synth cascade to kick off “My Heart Is Gold.” Sharp-edged, medium-low synth chords drop in before Adam Olofsson’s vocals mingle delicacy and defiance as the beat presses on. Whirling, falling synth floats out over the intense, emotive vocals and relentless drums as the chorus lifts.

This song bursts with life and energy, as Adam Olofsson injects depth and strength into the words. Now the vocals call out over tumbling synth and gruff chords add more weight underneath them. As the chorus climbs, the drums keep driving and the main synth part dances in constant movement.

This is a song about convincing someone to let go as our narrator tells the song’s subject to “go on, kill me if you want” but adds that the other person won’t succeed because “my eyes are water and my heart is gold.”

He tells the other person to “keep your novelettish words” because “I’m the loony of the century.” He says that the other person can keep looking because he’s still around “but it might be the last time.” He tells them to “hold your breath and grab your pen.”

Now the storyteller compares the unfolding future to the sea. He tells the other person that the shore is the start of their first steps without him. He points out that it will be “your freedom and your loneliness to come.” In a poignant statement, he says that in time the other person will bleed “come fire, come surrender.”

The narrator tells the song’s subject that when the whole story unfolds, they will know that his heart is gold. He bluntly adds that he can’t be the one the other person needs. He goes on to say that he’s prepared to give up their future because “all you wished for, it was never me.”

As the song ends, the storyteller says “the truth came crawling on its knees. At first calm, but this is louder, let the voices sing you free.”

© 2022 Karl Magi