Do you like ‘80s TV and film themes? Jan Hammer? Harold Faltermeyer? Vangelis? Now imagine that instead of having to cram everything into a thirty-second theme that ran under the opening credits, these composers had time to stretch their legs. You might get something like stereocrown’s 80s Kid.
Based in Hanover, Germany, solo artist stereocrown tells us he is “grateful for a childhood full of wonderful unveiled moments.” The songs (all instrumentals) that he’s recorded for 80s Kid are his “personal soundtrack for moments of this kind.” He builds from a standard rock-band base–electric guitars, bass, drums–and layers in analog synth and other keyboards (including piano and various electric pianos) to support smooth melodies.
stereocrown’s first instrument was the clarinet, before he expanded to saxophone and electric bass. These are melody instruments, and this early exposure shows in his compositions: the melodies, even when played on keyboards or guitar, are well-considered, and carry shapes like they came from a reed instrument. Prince did this to great effect, and it works well for stereocrown too. The songs have lovely melodies, and they’re complemented by well-crafted, shifting textures underneath.
The title cut kicks off the album, and it grabs us right away. “80s Kid” could be part of a film score from that era, as the track builds from its underlying piano figure with synth layers and, eventually, electric-guitar leads. As a fellow child of the ‘80s, this was a welcome return home for my ears. “Ideas,” up next, uses electric piano to set the groove, and works in some tasty dance-hall analog synths with punchy, fun bends and swoops.
I would have been satisfied with just these two tracks, but there’s a lot more on 80s Kid: it’s not just updated takes on “Axel F” or the “Miami Vice” theme. Every time I spun the record, I found a new delight–a nugget I’d missed the first time through–and this brought smiles to my face each time. I tried to get some work done with the album on in the background, and I kept getting pulled back into the music. That’s the sign of a good record.
You’ll find your own favorites, and there isn’t a bad choice across any of these ten cuts. “Level++” sounded great with its I-IV of IV-IV base progression, driving bass line and contemplative coda section. The keyboard tones added a good percussive effect to “Relocation” with some of the guitar riffs recalling Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” If you made me pick just one favorite, though, it’s “For Her.” Without even seeing the title, you know it’s a love song from its soulful, bluesy guitar licks, supported by a Leslie-drenched organ throb underneath. It’s terrific: stereocrown has channeled the emotion right onto the track.
He’s channeled the emotion onto all of the tracks, and that’s why 80s Kid works so well. Give it a spin, and let him take you on an instrumental journey. You’ll get pulled in, so don’t assume you’ll get anything else done in the meantime!
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