by Jon Phelps
Disco Never Dies! (Never ever!)
Scientists have yet to locate a bridge into that parallel universe where Nokia clamshells are still cutting edge, where lava lamps are back in style, where your crush just passed you a note asking you to the homecoming dance because there isn’t a raging virus shutting it down. But we need not despair: True Blossom’s latest record gives us a half hour glimpse into that beautiful, glittering world.
The album, In Bliss, arrives on Citrus City Records on October 23rd as a faithful follow-up to the band’s 2019 debut Heater. The eclectic reimagining of 80s disco and funk that distinguished Heater lives on through In Bliss, evoking the iconic sounds of Niles Rodgers, Madonna and a smidge of ABBA. It floats from electrifying dance anthems (“Just Us 2”) to slow jams (“Try To Say”) with ease, always inviting you to sway along.
The basslines are intricate and plucky. The bright assortment of synths sparkle like rhinestones against Sophie Cox’s cavey vocals. The guitar riffs nail that glassy, syncopated style that dominated the 70s and 80s to great effect. You’d be hard pressed to sit through the entire half-hour without feeling compelled to dance.
“Serious Boys” and “Stay (If U Want)” are knock-out tracks on this record. Nadav Flax’s punchy bass in “Serious Boys” is full of charm and sets the table for a sick back-and-forth between the guitar and synths. Meanwhile, “Stay” all but gallops along to the drum beat while showcasing a real, honest to god saxophone melody courtesy of Chandler Kelley (I am still swooning over it).
The album wears some new upgrades to the style established in Heater: the guitar tracks sound like they have been pushed forward in the mix to give them more punch; new instruments and textures have been packed in; the tracks sound fuller, more layered and dense but not cramped.
The final result is a tightly paced album that doesn’t overstay its welcome — in fact, it left me wishing there was a longer run time. I’d say that is more victory than shortcoming. The album’s structure and pacing isn’t quite as dynamic as Heater, which frequently bounced between high energy bops and mellow palate cleansers. Instead of switching gears from high speed bops to soft lullabies like Heater, In Bliss picks a pace and runs with it, only slowing down in the back half of the record for a very brief change in tone.
The sonic textures of the 80s are seeing a sort of renaissance — Adam Lambert’s Velvet and Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia come to mind. In Bliss tracks alongside this trend, but cuts at a different angle. Where Velvet and Future Nostalgia mine the potential of the era’s sounds to crank out crisp and modern pop bangers, In Bliss goes out of its way to amass its own distinct atmosphere. Not one that is uniquely retro, mind you, but something ephemeral and intimate all at once. Spending time with this album was like driving down an old neighborhood with the headlights off, catching glimpses of figures dancing under the streetlamps. Cozy, almost.
If In Bliss is any indication, there is no shortage of heartache in our parallel world — though the soundtrack is groovy as hell. The lyrical style is confessional, evoking a sense of things left undone (“Try to Say”) and the growing pains of adolescent love (“Ruiner”). The lyrics shoot a little straighter than those on Heater — it doesn’t evoke the same poetic license that the band took with “Grave Robbers,” for example. They strike a moody, teenage flavor of angst without coming off as rote or cheesy. It catches that timeless feeling of finding the right words well after the right time has gone: “Time moves on, and everyone forgets / so I’ve come to live with this regret.”
Moody or not, the songs rarely sacrifice that bop energy that I love so much. The album goes out on a high note with the energizing bassline of “Just Us 2” and the full-throttle, kick drum anthem “My Boy”: “Leave all the other shit behind / the only thing I’m keeping is you […] Maybe this is what we need / maybe we’ll stop running away.”
If there are True Blossom fans clamouring for a radical evolution of the previous record, this isn’t it. Still, I don’t anticipate anybody walking away from this album disappointed. It’s a perfect excuse to have some unadulterated fun — and really, who doesn’t love fun?