I will forever be a proponent of this resurgence of 80s influence on pop music we’ve seen over the last few years.
I’m not talking about the Stranger Things soundtrack or the brief popularity of chillwave, or even Lady Gaga’s singlehanded resurrection of glam aesthetics. No, I want that real deal 80s sound: give me those shimmering analog synths, them gated reverb drums, that Cold War melancholy. Luckily, Europe’s always-fruitful synth-pop scene is there to answer my prayers.
Enter Palace Winter, a Copenhagen-based duo that has risen out of the European dark pop underground, and is now poised to break into the mainstream in 2018. Formed by Australian multi-instrumentalist Carl Coleman and Danish producer Caspar Hesselager in 2015, Palace Winter dropped their debut EP that same year, and followed it up with their first full length album Waiting for the World to Turn in 2016. Palace Winter quickly built a following across Europe, garnering critical recognition from the alternative music press and playing to massive festival crowds over the following summers. Coleman and Hesselager are back again after an intensive season of writing and recording, the resulting album Nowadays is slated to release on May 4th.
“Empire,” the second single from their forthcoming album, is an enchanting cut of Northern sorcery. Icy synths propel the track forward above a textural rhythm of strummed guitars and electronic drums, while dramatic string accents rise like fjords from the frozen sea. Coleman’s lyrics explore themes of escapism and withdrawal, the airy, layered sound conjuring image of 80s new wave groups like Tears for Fears or Soft Cell. The guitar work is a real treat here, bringing to mind the spellbinding sounds of the late-great John McGeoch (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, Public Image Ltd., etc.) in the way the bright, plucked notes gently dance around the synth melodies. This is that real kind of mystical retro dark-pop, and I can’t get enough of it.
Carl Coleman was nice enough to share some of his thoughts on the recording of the single with us: “[‘Empire’] was one of the first songs we finished for the new album. We got really excited about how the organic strings felt so colorful next to the synths and guitars. I remember that the chorus happened really urgently and we just fell in love with the hook and kept jamming it all night in the studio. ‘Empire’ is about letting go for one night and escaping yourself and your surroundings.”
Check out “Empire” below, streaming exclusively on Culture Collide, and be sure to pick up the album Nowadays when it releases on May 4th!