Album review: "Player Piano"
For all its cloudy synths and echoing vocals, Memory Tapes could be the soundtrack to the dreams of '80s pop stars.
"Player Piano," Dayve Hawk's second outing as Memory Tapes, is a wistful album that weaves synthetic and organic instrumentation with the gauzy atmospherics associated with the chillwave genre. But the album isn't entirely hazy and sleepy - such songs as "Today Is Our Life" and "Worries" recall '80s pop with their lo-fi keyboard sounds.
For all his deftness in creating musical soundscapes, however, Hawk's high, nasally voice isn't particularly easy on the ears, even with an amble cushion of reverb. When overlayed on the glossy pop of "Trance Sisters" or "Sunhits," his thin vocals seem more corny than anthemic.
When Hawk gives his vocals a back seat, the results are much more pleasing, and he proves that he knows how to set a mood and develop solid pop songs. The instrumental tracks are particularly enjoyable. Midway through the album, "Humming" is a glitchy reverie that is both cinematic and melodious. "Fell Thru Ice II" is one of the most confident songs and provides the most satisfying emotional journey.
--Dan Miller, Aug. 5, 2011