Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Initial Impressions of Soon Comes Night
skimode’s album Soon Comes Night has undeniable retrowave overtones to it but manages to avoid clichés or cookie-cutter synthwave tropes. The songs mix cinematic sensibilities in the lyrics with strong guest artists to create enjoyable music with a rich underpinning of analog synth warmth, strong drums, and solid melodic writing.
I feel that the guest artists on Soon Comes Night go a long way towards making the album as strong as it is. Three main singers lend their talents to the album and each has a unique sound. Katie Hightower has a strong, expressive, and retro-sounding voice that complements the music well. David (the lead singer of Von Kaiser) has a great deal of emotional power in his singing and Glitterwolf can sure belt out a tune with feeling and depth to his vocals.
I also enjoy the power and drive of the drums on Soon Comes Night. There’s a strong impact to the percussion sounds and the “big” feeling suits the overall mood of this album. I also enjoy how much energy and shape the drums lend to the music, allowing it to support the strength of the guest vocalists adequately.
The synth choices on the album also go a long way toward creating a rich auditory experience. There’s thought given to how each different sonic element will impact the next, the synthesized sounds all working together to produce a fullness and depth. On top of this, the melodies are well-written and quite ear-pleasing as they unfold.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed: "Just In Time," "Vampires," “San Junipero,” and "The Chase"
“Just In Time” hisses into life with the sound of a cassette tape along with the roll of thunder and splash of rain. Oscillating pulses of bass join the ambient sounds along with a warm synth playing a swelling, bright melody. There’s a drum fill and then a sweeping flow of sound carries the rising synth out over the gliding beat. The melody develops a rather uplifting feeling as it evolves and I enjoy hearing that evolution. As a whole this track has an airy lightness to it that I was drawn to.
For a song with the title “Vampires” this track opens quite gently with wafting waves of synth and a high chiming sound. Now the steady heartbeat of drums and bass move in before David (Von Kaiser’s vocalist) unleashes his caressing, emotive voice into the music. Bright synth lights flash out in an effective supporting role for the drifting vocal melody.
There’s a sense of danger as we open to “alarm bells going off in my head” as the narrator says “I can’t focus or see the night sky.” Now the horror fun starts with, “Zombies waking up, losing time, sleeping, awake, waiting for a sign.”
A feeling of foreboding comes through in the chorus in lines like, “Something creeping up behind me I can’t see, something strange taking over me” and the narrator says he needs to stay awake “just to stay alive.”
I enjoy the campy nature of this song in lyrics such as, “It's a tough day, when you decide you have to kill your own werewolf girlfriend” after we’re reminded that “vampires are real, I’ve seen one of them.” Clearly the time has come for the narrator to make a stand as he says, “We'll save and we'll be saved and we'll be ready for anything."
“San Junipero” comes alive with dense synths and Katie Hightowers’ spoken word opening that has a certain punch to it. There’s a slow metallic arpeggio over the rebounding beat before Katie Hightower’s strong, expressive voice kicks in. There’s an enjoyable, cascading lead melody over a throbbing, progressive beat.
There’s a tidal push and pull between desire and escape in the lyrics as they explore the ideas set out in the episode of “Black Mirror” entitled San Junipero. Our narrator starts out asking if she is too much to handle. I can picture that being said with a wry smile especially after she taunts, “touch me, I dare you.”
The contradiction at the heart of the song is best expressed in the words, “You know that you'll always run away. You know that you want that skin to skin and you always will.” The yearning to stay forever in “San Junipero” has a price attached to it and the way this song works, it captures that feeling quite nicely.
High, very bright synths flash as “The Chase” begins along with a punchy bass throb and driving retro drums. A dense, minor key wash of notes begins to crystallize into the lead melody as the relentless bass pulsation goes on. The engaging melody that emerges is energetic and full of motion as those high, bright notes burst through the music over the heartbeat under it. I also find the guitar solo’s gruff glow to be a strong point of this track.
“Red Light,” “Getaway Car,” and “Soon Comes Night”
A deep, uneven bass pulse starts “Red Light” with vocoder altered lyrics and a thick, steady beat along with high synth shine. David (Von Kaiser’s vocalist) again brings his emotive voice to bear while the beat pulses with intensity. I feel that the depth of expression in the vocals suits the lyrics well. There’s an interesting contrast between the warm, caressing synths and the flying guitar solo that matches the vocal intensity here.
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I am into the vibes of this song’s lyrics as they lay out a midnight drive, breaking all the rules. Our narrator’s defiance is clear in the lines, “I run the red light. Open road with open eyes. Leaving behind all the civilized.” There’s strong imagery in the words, “Corvette cuts through the moonlight. Road goes on into the night. Engine purrs like a jungle cat.”
In the chorus that sense of abandon continues with the line, “Full tank and I could care less. Got the top down and no more stress.” The norm breaking is doubled down in the lyrics that say, “Foot to the floor and I toss my cans outside the suicide door.”
I also like the strong picture painted in the lyrics of “Moonlight, highway, midnight it’s the drive of your life.” Our narrator is willing to throw caution to the wind because “She’s got those bedroom eyes, you can't deny they tantalize.” He adds, “I give up everything just for tonight. It’s been the best time of my life.”
“Getaway Car” launches with Katie Hightower’s singing and a dark, oscillating bass line alone before an easy beat and high arpeggios with a minor key feeling come in. Those arpeggios are joined by a tense melodic synth line. All of the elements of the track underpin Katie Hightower’s strong vocal performance. I like the way which shadows and brightness contrast with one another on this track. The open and echoing feeling adds to the undercurrent of something dark and ethereal flowing through the music.
A sense of two lovers running through the night to escape pursuit flows through the lyrics of the song. The narrator makes a heartfelt plea when she says, “You know who I am. I know where you are. Baby, stick with me. Drive the getaway car” and defiantly adds, “We’re not done putting up a fight.” There’s a sense of resistance mingling with doomed triumph in the words, “Step on the floor. Spinning eternally. Heaven reigns majesty. Ignite! Ignite!”
The pursuit grows more intense as “They chase us down the hill. Cameras flash they know it all” and it becomes clear that the press is after the song’s couple but “words they seem like weapons now. Standing proud to face the bullet stream. They cannot bring me down.”
In spite of having “white knuckles from holding tight” and “bloody, broken heels” as the narrator says, “We’re not done putting up a fight.” The same sense of defiance is again made plain as the song ends on the lines, “We'll escape our fate, we belong together. We'll escape this place.”
A deep, extending synth bass pulse with warmer chords growing over it brings “Soon Comes Night” to life as a slow, string-like arpeggio spins into the music. There’s a deep kick drum that’s joined by other percussive elements and an airy, gentle synth line that surrounds Katie Hightower’s caressing voice. I find the mixture of wonder and uncertainty compelling on the album. The synths cry out with a deeply emotional feeling.
“Summer Running” and "Endless Possibilities"
A certain lost and questioning yearning is deeply embedded in this song. Katie Hightower captures that slightly yearning feeling as she sings the lines, “Have you ever wondered what goes on above your head while you’re lying there alone, while you’re lying there in bed?”
There’s a sense of feeling tiny in the words, “Have you ever wondered why Earth is all alone in a million stars, a universe we roam?” I especially enjoy the line that asks, “Do you look towards the sky see the burning stars? Wonder where they’re from, wonder where you are ?”
Our narrator asks, “Do you have a driving dream to know what’s beyond? Is there anybody there or are we all alone?” while watching “the floating sky, an everlasting sight.” As the song ends, the question lingers: are we all alone or one of a kind?
“Summer Running” begins as the synths swell into flowing, floating life and a moving pattern of shifting medium-high synth and rebounding, steady drum beats also dances into the track. A lambent high flying synth line coalesces into a shining lead melody while a darker, deeper sound with a rough edge slides in under the higher notes.
The guitar adds a yowling energy behind it all that I find interesting. Those stacked-up, energetic synths tumble down into the music as the bass pulse oscillates with a cutting edge. That lead melody is so full of life and sunlight as the guitar doubles with it as the track flies toward a conclusion.
A warm, distorted flow of synth is joined by waves of deep bass as “Endless Possibilities” kicks off. A higher, more glowing synth climbs to play a wandering lead melody as that deep bass is now joined by Glitterwolf’s intense, strong vocals. The vocal melody has a triumphant feeling as Glitterwolf’s voice soars over it. There’s a great deal of expression and emotion pouring out of the track, backing the uplift of the lyrics.
The message of finding hope and triumphing over obstacles is clear in this song. As it begins, there’s a feeling of struggle in the words, “You’re a cog in the machine, moving blindly forward to nowhere really.” I like the imagery in the lyric, “You’re afraid of the unclean but you will find treasure beneath.”
Now the hope begins to grow in the lines, “You don’t know what you’ll achieve with your eyes wide open” and “You’ll do things you won’t believe. Your pain will feel like a memory.” There’s still struggle ahead as the lyrics say, “You are lost and alone, and alone I will find you. When you’ve nowhere to roam, It is there I will find you.”
However, there’s encouragement in the words that remind us that when we open our eyes to “endless possibilities and you take off your disguise” we are the lucky ones. As the song ends our narrator says, “Come we’ve got no time, I can hear the hours passing. Take my hand it feels so right. Take a breath and try not to fall behind.”
Soon Comes Night has the right balance between retro vibes, clean modern production and strong vocal performances. Adding the well-considered synths, percussion and melodic writing into the mix results in a satisfying whole.
© 2020 Karl Magi