Synthwave Album Review: "Courage" by Sonic Gap
This eclectic album challenges the listener without sacrificing head-bobbing hooks and danceable beats. On Courage, Sonic Gap manages to steer clear of having the tracks become chaotic and has written a truly fascinating album. Read on to learn why you should take a listen.
Musical Concepts on the Album Courage
Courage by Sonic Gap is an album that explores a wide-ranging territory of sounds and emotions through a sophisticated synthwave lens. His approach to the music combines melody-forward tunes with some unique influences including classic music theory ideas like “the circle of fifths” and musical genres as diverse as funk ("Funky Artifacts") and Romantic-era classical music ("Momentum"). He also writes lyrics that take on everything from figuring out the puzzle that is life to cutting through the noise of the world to be heard.
Although the influences and musical ideas are pretty diverse here, Sonic Gap manages to bring everything together by having very consistent production values and following the idea of having strong themes for each song, themes that tie together in a broader conversation about the world.
I do enjoy the eclectic approach to albums, at least when it isn’t too disjointed. I think that Sonic Gap manages to steer clear of having the tracks become chaotic. If you’re into concept albums in which each track articulates one central vision, you might not like Courage. But, if you want unique songs that explore one person’s view of the world through music, I’d recommend this album.
One thing that can’t be denied is the musicality of the album. Through his harmonic and melodic textures, the way he deploys his arsenal of synths and his lyrical choices, everything is pleasing to the ear.
Track by Track Breakdown
The first track that really caught my ears was the first track of the album entitled a "New Life." The track, says Sonic Gap, is about discovering a new life seen through the metaphor of a space mission. It delivers on this promise by evoking vast starry spaces through shimmering arps and a choir-like synth. This song uses “the circle of fifths” that produces a very elegant classical effect. It’s quite an ethereal track, all in all.
Generally the production values are high on this album. I did notice that on the "Neon Lights" track, Sonic Gap’s voice got lost in the mix a bit. It was the only track where I noticed it and it’s such a minor issue that it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of listening to the album at all.
As it happens, the second track was also one of my favourites. "Funky Artifacts" really does bring the funk. It has an infectious groove. But, more importantly, it has a guitar melody that makes the funk explode from the headphones! It’s such a nice guitar lick and the rhythm is pretty damn funky too.
"Set and Forget"
"Set and Forget" is another track that I really dug. Perhaps it’s the fact that Sonic Gap says he was inspired by ‘80s TV show themes and I could really feel that vibe in the track. There's a hot Yamaha DX7 riff that sounds excellent with a wide-open feeling and the arps in the track dance wonderfully with the melody.
One more track that stood out for me was "Barking." Sonic Gap explained that the song is about having to cut through the noise of the world to have your voice heard. There’s a lot of warmth in this song, despite the intensity of the lyrics. The solid driving beat, the swelling arps, and a sweeping, wind-like noise all combine under the melody to propel this track forward. The mixture of sounds on "Barking" create a sonically rich track.
Summing It Up
Every track on Courage was eminently listenable, but I’ll talk a bit about what I thought of my favourites, as well as adding Sonic Gap’s own comments about the tracks which he included with the album.
Courage is an eclectic and dynamic album full of adventurous musical choices and interesting sounds. Sonic Gap is clearly a man with a strong personal voice and he’s sharing that voice with us on the album in a compelling way. I would absolutely recommend this album to anyone who likes to hear synthwave’s expansion into new and exciting territory.