Goodbye Heart – Keep Me Close
By Graham Isaac
There’s a certain quality in certain types of music that lends itself especially to night drives or gazing out apartment windows upon city skylines. These qualities can cross genres – I’ve done both to country, synth pop or even metal. But a certain melancholy curiosity tends to infuse any music meant for such pursuits. With their record Keep Me Close, Seattle dreampop duo Goodbye Heart (#41for2015) have made an album that practically demands it be approached in this way; on “Sirens” lead vocalist Sam Ford croons “drive me away/get me the fuck out of here.”
“Keep Me Close” is a sonic ode to urban landscapes… and the night time escape from such landscapes. In the next track, “Optimo,” the refrain “The city was so different then” rises over one of the records most danceable tracks. Vangelis-inspired synths slide over liquid beats. “I think I’ll go downtown/get some underground” Ford intones later in the track. Themes of city life, alienation and youth are frequent, with a romantic, dramatic soundtrack to accompany them.
On the strongest tracks – “Stevie,” “Optimo,” “Last Ride,” opener “Lives on Lives,” there’s a narrative interplay between the music and the lyrics, and hooks seductive enough to keep the listener close. One of the most recognizable comparisons would be early M83, especially vocally, or the instrumental work of Seattle production duo Blue Sky Black Death. It’s layered, often gorgeous stuff/ At its best, Keep Me Close creates a lush atmosphere that satisfies both intent and casual listening.
Where it falters is its length; at fifteen tracks it can get a bit samey, and the occasional lyrical cliché (“we love nothing but the night”) snaps the listener out of any reverie they may have achieved. This may be a result of the group’s approach to releasing this album – they released a new single every other Friday for seven months – and one can see how some of the weaker tracks would stand stronger alone. The length can also heighten unflattering comparisons to other acts playing similar sorts of dreamy synthpop. A tighter, more compact album wouldn’t have suffered for it.
Keep Me Close is a strong record in that it demonstrates that Goodbye Heart have the chops to create interesting and powerful soundscapes and infuse them with purpose and melancholy. Hopefully next time around they can sharpen said chops to create something more concise and wholly them. – (7/10)