Synthwave Album Review: "Revisit" by YORU
Contemporary synth-based music has expanded in many directions since synthwave first exploded onto the scene in a burst of retro energy, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s still a place for properly produced and well-written classic synthwave. I am not one for slavish adherence to clichés, but I was first drawn to that classic synthwave sound and YORU has done a superb job with it on Revisit. It has all of the defining elements from driving drums to great catchy synth riffs and strong, expressive vocals.
Album Review for "Revisit" by YORU
I want to talk a bit more about the vocals on Revisit because they are a big part of the sonic landscape of the album. There are a number of guest vocalists and each of them brings their own sound and mood to the lyrics whether it’s the very retro sound of Roxi Drive’s voice on "Running Away" or the emotive expression in GeoVoc's singing on "Stars." For exuberance and a sense of fun, Swayze’s performance on "Pool Party" hits the spot as well and NeverMann brings the romantic vibes to "Forever."
The guitar work on Revisit needs to come in for a mention. It is well-played and full of expression and energy. There are shredding moments but also parts that shine and flicker more gently. YORU deploys the guitar to create different moods and textures depending on the track from Dimi Kaye’s shredding power on “Pool Party” to Del-Anov's glistening solo that shines on “Forever.” The classic synthwave sound suits the guitar so well and it fits seamlessly into the music’s energy.
There’s a lot of brightness and glow to the synth sounds on this album. YORU deploys synths to shine and shimmer, adding positive energy or sweeping soundscapes to the music. The landscape of synths on Revisit is used to good effect when it comes to supporting the vocal tracks. There’s melodic power in those synths but they never take away from the strong vocal melodies that are so tasty on this album. Everything interlocks nicely and creates a rich backdrop for the voices and dancing guitars.
Favourite Track Breakdown
“Carousel” starts off with a stereotypical ‘80s news reader voice announcing a new mall which launches the track on a retro journey. There's a cascading lead synth melody which has a flying quality to it. The sense of uplifting energy is joined by a singing guitar solo that pulls everything up as the main synth melody glows alone into open space for a moment and sweeps around until the chiming synths hit and deep bass touches the track again.
Roxi Drive’s warm, expressive voice is the focus on “Running Away” where her vocal melody is uplifting and bursting with energy. There’s a powerful, propulsive synthwave beat underneath her singing and synths glow and whirl behind it. There’s also an impassioned guitar solo that dances into the track and drives it onward with bright, breezy tones.
The lyrics are equally positive and uplifting as Roxi Drive sings, “Can’t imagine what my life would be without you cruising right next to me/All on, it’s all on you/If the sky should fall and our world turns upside down/ We’ll find a way, we’ll find a way baby!”
One of my favourite lines on the whole album comes in the chorus, “Nothing else exists, in the shadows and the mist” as the narrator says, “Running away, not enough to say/Let’s run into the night where we belong.”
The positive message continues in the lines, "Not gonna spend my life wishing we had flown, gonna take the rest deep into the unknown/Nothing ventured, nothing gained/ That’s what you always told me.”
“It Takes Two” launches into energetic synth chimes and a strong drum beat along with Xoco’s delivery of a catchy vocal melody in her strong voice over the dense brightness of the synths that all interlock to produce a sonic tapestry. Her vocal performance stands up to the jumping beat and the synth shine.
This is a song about being your true self and not shying away from it. Xoco belts out, "You tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies when I call you on your phone/Saying you just wanna stay at home/But I know you wanna go, out where the neon disco kids go!”
There’s a sense of affection in the lines, “Everybody’s trying to become more like the cool kids but we don’t wanna be like them/Way more fun coming up with our own rules/Rules are only fun when you break them/So we break them.”
I was also really enamoured of the line, “We stay out ’til the sky becomes a swirling orange dream/Rushing ideas back and forth, just like we’re 17.”
GeoVoc’s voice on “Stars” is full of deep emotion and expressive yearning. The guitar howls out over a deep bass pulse and a powerful drum beat slowly drives through the track. GeoVoc’s vocal melody strikes at the heart with the ache of its minor notes. There’s a sense of open, lonely spaces to this track and the starry sparkles of higher synth contrast with the minor key melancholy of the vocals.
The emotional tenor of this song is best captured in the lines, “Passing through the city lights/Underneath the star-kissed skies/ I’m searching for something right/Just a little love to fill my empty life.” There’s hope for a better life out there that’s “brighter than the night, that’s deeper than the gray” and GeoVoc expresses it intensely.
“Forever” is a track full of delicate and gentle sounds and emotion. High, warm analog drifts of synth float out over the open spaces of the track along with softly flowing notes and the tender, warm voice of NeverMann moves in. The chorus is buoyed up by the throbbing, strong beat that kicks into the track and I enjoyed the glistening, rising guitar solo that spins into the track, equally full of passion and emotion.
This is a classic ballad and the words match the deep emotion in NeverMann’s voice as he sings, "When you look at me tonight, there’s no tomorrow/An inch between our souls that fills the hollow” and I also was touched by the line, “This could be forever or just this night/I hesitate is this wrong or right?/But you slowly nod your head and make me follow” because of the depth of expression in it.
“Pool Party” absolutely cannot be beat for a sheer sense of fun and energy. Dimi Kaye’s guitar rips into the track, shredding and howling, as Swayze delivers the vocals with a punch of teenaged testosterone and a sense of humour. I was so entertained by how well both of them got into the rocking vibe of the music. The musical chops of both of these guys can’t be denied.
For the fun nature of this track, the lyrics of this song work beautifully. I love the cocky but still insecure feeling to lines like, “It’s time to down some creatine and become the Greek god I was meant to be/I’ve got to stick to my routine, I’ve got to eat more Lean Cuisine” and frankly I had to chuckle at, “Guns out, guns out it’s the only way/Party’s in three days/Until now everybody’s always looking down but soon that’ll change” because I remember feeling that way in high school.
I think that “Dreams” is a good way to finish up the album. To me, not only does this play on YORU (night in Japanese) but it also touches on the idea that this whole production focuses on the idea of a nostalgic dream. The lead synth melody is dreamy and delicate, carried along on waves of synth sounds and steady drums. There’s a guitar solo that moves with impassioned intensity through the track and a spaced out, dreaming feeling to the background of the track.
There’s lot of energy and fun about Revisit. It hits the core of what makes the classic synthwave sound so enjoyable with great vocals, excellent guitar work and the retro glow and warmth of analog synths all supported by deep wells of bass and thunderous drums. YORU has chosen superb collaborators for the album and produced something that stands up to the classic artists that first formed the scene back in the 2010’s while keeping the sound fresh.