Nostalgia – utilizing a pale echo of the past to forge an emotional connection regardless of quality
The 1980s have been an endless supply of inspiration for bands since the turn of the millennium. A select minority of groups have been able to master those 80s sonics and turn them into something compelling. A large number, though, just churn out dreck according to the above definition of nostalgia. Perhaps the 90s and the Puff Daddy school of sampling kicked off the timer on this crummy time bomb: sample a song that was already a hit and throw some lazy bars over it. It’s so easy; the audience’s emotional connection with the song has already been established. So, that kind of sampling is more a business decision than an artistic statement. “Can I afford to pay Sting for this sample? Good, then I can re-pump it into a hit on my own behalf with minimal effort. Now let’s watch the cash roll in.” Nostalgia for the 80s takes on an only slightly less lazy version of this: find the oldest keyboard setting available, play a few chords and watch audiences flock, like seagulls, to your shows.
This is all by way of contrasting what Mariana in our Heads are doing on the track “Anemone”. Released as the A-side of a seven inch by Sailyard, the backing track almost (and the “almost” is important) calls to mind something that you might have heard in a department store in the eighties. It’s got it all, super prominent-retro sounding synth, bass that pops but isn’t quite slap bass, wet reverb’d drum machine beats, heavily chorused guitars that sound dangerously close to the synths.
But those elements combine in an unpredictable way. “Anemone” isn’t just some nostalgic jag. Mariana in our Heads make all the elements loud and reverb’d until the track sounds like shoegaze made from the building blocks of elevator music. That, and the angelic vocals on the track make the song sound out. This is a band that knows how to twist retro sounds into something new. If that’s not enough, they have the subtle songwriting chops to get a melody good and trapped in your brain.