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Synthpop Album Review: "From City to Beachfront" by Beckett

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

Beckett’s From City to Beachfront is a foray into “city pop” which grew up in Japan during their eruption into financial and technological dominance in the 1980’s. Beckett captures that genre’s mix of strong melodies with a jazz fusion influence, smooth beats and sonic pastel glide on this album.

One of the elements that I most enjoy on From City to Beachfront is Beckett’s sense of melody. The main melodies of the songs are clear, catchy and full of uplifting feeling. The jazzy influences are clear and they add an ultra-cool vibe to the melodies as they flow through the album. Japanese pop genres have always been catchily melodic and Beckett is firmly in this tradition.

Another reason that I find From City to Beachfront compelling is the choice of synth instruments that Beckett uses. The overall sonic palette is silky smooth and full of a leisurely, relaxing vibe. There are glittering chimes, dancing piano and lush sounds like xylophone and jazz organ. The other accents that I enjoy on the album come from tasteful guitar that dreams through the tracks and the horns that add brassy, clean punctuation and glowing energy to the music.

Most of all, I am drawn to the sonic imagery of this album. It has a relaxing feeling to it that gives the sensation of a magical retro world drenched in pastel pinks and blues. It has enough funk and groove to capture the “city” vibes along with a laidback, sunny feeling that paints blue water and cerulean skies in my mind.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“City Life” kicks off with a dynamic piano melody along with some tasteful guitar. The bright, energetic, uplifting piano melody skips smoothly along over the steady percussion that supports it. I enjoy the jazzy horn line that adds a little funk as the piano climbs along with it.

The secondary melody is a laidback swirl as it switches between piano and a pipe-like synth and the dreaming, positive piano melody hits again. Slap bass pulses as the horns snappily sing their melody and a leaping, bell-like synth solo comes in over the smooth beat. The horns and round-sounding synth trade off, full of pop and energy.

The soft sounds of the night are joined by a surging slap bass underneath big, bursting drums as “Departure” begins. The main melody exudes an earnest warmth, carried on a juicy synth and punctuated by sparkling chimes. The horns ooze cool and add brightness as the piano carries a melody influenced by smooth jazz.

Glowing pops of synth accent the track as as the horns glide in between the jazz chords. Piano twirls through the music and the horns sing out more upbeat notes. The horns and the guitar trade off sharp riffs over as the steady groove of the gliding beat. I enjoy the great vibes coming from the mingled guitar and horns as they undeniable melodies before the track ends.

“Long Weekend” comes to life with a medium-high, bell like synth carrying an airily tripping melody as the solid retro drums hit and the lead synth calls out a smoothly flowing, gentle melody brimming with hope. There’s a nasal tone to the guitar that sings out a dreamy, caressing melody over the relaxed beat. The bell-like synth repeats a drifting pattern of notes, joined by the throbbing drums and sweeping pan-pipe synth accents.

The beat keeps skimming along under a line of descending, chiming synth before the round glow of pan pipes calls out breathy notes. The drums accelerate and divide as a cascading melody is carried on the keyboard. I am drawn to the way the distant, misty synth plays a softly dancing line of notes and smooth air buoys up the track.

The soft trickle of rain and a thunderstorm opens “Relaxation Lounge.” Delicate, lush, medium high xylophone notes slide up smoothly while deep, resonant bass moves under metallic, wind-chime notes repeat a gentle pattern. Luminous, pipe-like synth carries a lightly skipping melody over the smooth drum and bass throb.

I am a fan of the synth that is reminiscent of a koto as it contrasts with the glissandos of full notes underneath it. Metallic chimes glitter over the koto twang as the active melody cruises on a pan pipe synth. Creamy smooth bass moves underneath the trickle of rain and soft music as the track ends.

“Beach Central” flows into being with gently washing waves and sunny, glowing synth shifts in expanding ripples. Slowly turning arpeggios move over the lithe beat as the crystalline shine of chimes drifts in and out. The bouncing beat jumps behind steel pan synths as the distorted, laidback melody trickles along. I enjoy the highly atmospheric nature of this track as it eases along.

The jazz-inflected melody has a glassy smooth quality to it over the relaxed drums. It climbs like a seabird on a breeze over the pulsation of the beat. This track is pastel in my ears, like a delicate wash of aquamarine and pink. The melody descends over the steady throb and the tropical percussion. There’s a feeling of exhalation and letting go in the music that is compelling.

Bouncing slap bass adds an even pulse below the climbing saxophone-like synth as “Coastal Retreat” starts off. Dense piano chords shift under the jazzy synth melody that arcs through the music while the horns cry out in an uplifting series of jabs. I am drawn to the dreamy, energetic quality of the synth melody. The horns cascade downward, adding brightness as the beat flies along.

Very high arpeggios sparkle over the oscillating bassline and after a drum fill, the horn section calls out a yearning, hopeful melody. The piano carries the glistening, earnest main melody with the horns adding clean, sharp accents. As the music gains power, the beat and bass are insistent below the coruscating horns, Shimmers of piano, full of great jazz sounds, flow in and it all fades.

“Beachfront” starts off with jangling, shiny piano playing a downward flow of notes. The piano dances below the round flow of lightly sliding synth as the beat bounces and the soft voice of the distant synth trades off with elevated glitter. I like the way that the cut glass chime of the synth sings out a summery, clear melody.

There is a pan pipe segment, full of airy float, while below it the solid drums direct the music. The piano adds support to the tripping movement of the warm synth parts, expressing feelings that are enfolding and soothing. The drums cruise on until the track fades.

Conclusion

From City to Beachfront is a quintessentially cool summer album. It draws from city pop, synthwave and chill electronic music but it has a smooth, relaxed and compelling feeling all its own. I enjoy Beckett’s foray into the melodic, pastel washed and easy-going side of synth music here.

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