Retro styles, especially those that model the 80s, tend to be covered in a dozen layers of irony and hipsterism when presented to the world these days, and it’s no wonder. The jangly synths, neon eyeshadows, and Flock of Seagulls hairstyles that characterized the ’80s pop scene weren’t even one hundred percent serious back then. In an age fueled by cocaine and Diet Coke, we can’t exactly blame modern artists for poking fun a bit at the era that brought us Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Jump” by Van Halen.
That said, even the most enthusiastic indie pop dwellers can’t leave the 80s behind, especially when it comes to those early classic synths. Moog or adjacent Moog, full of mid-range pop cachet and causing uncontrollable nostalgic flashbacks to the mall, the world of Tron, or somewhere in between, 80s pop has endured because it’s fun and that there is a lot to do with these synths. This is where we find Emery Pulse and his second single “Gift Box”: at the corner of synths, fun, pop and a little nuance.
Emery Pulse has only two tracks so far, with 2018’s debut single “Show Me Who You Are”, a musically balladized version of Tiffany’s cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” and definitely on the spectrum of chewing gum. It was clear with ‘Show Me Who You Are’ that Emery Pulse loves his synths and is a die-hard 80s fan, but ‘Gift Box’, which came out late last year, is the complete package of 80 years.
With a lyrical double meaning so strong it’s almost graphic (“Hold out, the handkerchief is paper thin”? Okay, Pandora is blushing at this point), “Gift Box” captures more than the nostalgia of the chewing gum from the 80s but also its cheeky meaning. of pleasure. There’s no need to be satirical of synths from Emery’s perspective; most of the music was already a parody of itself. Meanwhile, the 80s musical aesthetic is pushed to the max in this track with even more layers of synth, poppy funk guitars and bass and – what 80s pop song could be complete without it – a roaring rip and somewhat out of place Richard Marx-style guitar solo by Chris Camozzi. And, bland starburst at the end…it’s a wrap. You can almost see Michael Bolton’s punch with this outro and we bet Emery and his team loved creating this unassuming starburst.
For those who grew up in the 80s and knew that a good song didn’t end without a crossfade, the nostalgia for Emery Pulse and “Gift Box” is so real you can feel the woodwork in the undersides. -floors from our parents as we rushed down the stairs with our third bowl of Corn Pops so as not to miss the next 80s rocker after the MTV commercial (back when they played music videos). That’s how sincere Emery Pulse is with their 80s pop: no need for “indie” or “electro” tags here to justify themselves. Emery Pulse thinks these sounds (and their tongue-in-cheek, not-so-subtle lyrics) can stand on their own, thank you, and if “Gift Box” is anything to go by, she’s right.
“Gift Box” is out now and can be streamed on Spotify.