My love for synthpop is intertwined with my love for music, right back to the very beginning. Every major moment in my life can be documented with an accompanying synthpop album that I was listening to during that time period. Whether it be OMD, Depeche Mode, Erasure, or newer acts like Chvrches, Iris, and Mesh, synthpop has been the soundtrack to my life. I’m saying all this to A.) let you know that I’m dead serious about synthpop, and B.) give some weight to the comment I’m about to make. Atomic Eyes by The Rain Within is one of the best synthpop records I’ve ever heard. That’s not lip service or a phrase I’m throwing out without thought. Atomic Eyes is a synthpop masterpiece. Period.
In truth, Atomic Eyes is an album I’ve been waiting on. I was actively thinking abstractly about how long it had been since a true classic synthpop album was released. Sure, there have been some greats, albums that delivered a solid synthpop experience and gave fans of the genre what they wanted. Maybe I’m jaded, but I want more. I’ve been looking for a record that grabs you from the opening track and doesn’t let you go until the needle runs into the spinout groove. An album that as soon as you hear it you’re immediately overcome with the urge to share it…to impress upon another person the experience you’ve just had. A piece of music that goes beyond the trappings of genre and delivers for anyone who hears it, even if they have no clue what the musical origins are. That’s the trick…and it’s not easy to do.
As soon as you see the cover of Atomic Eyes you’re getting clues to what lies within. It’s a beautiful contrast of black, white, and flashes of neon. It also reflects the balance of 80’s roots and modern synthpop awareness. Notice that I said balance…it’s a tricky thing, that word. It’s easy to fall too far to one side or the other and sound at worst like a parody, or at best, an album that will only appeal to niche fans. The Rain Within walks that razor’s edge like its not there, delivering an album that defines what made synthpop THE genre for an entire decade and makes a strong argument that it should STILL be THE genre today.
On a musical front, The Rain Within has obviously poured a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Atomic Eyes. Every single track is a pop feast…so much so that I have no idea how one would decide on the singles. The real twist here is that for an album that is so immediately familiar and accessible, it doesn’t sound like anyone else. The trappings are there, but you can’t use phrases like, “That song just oozes Pet Shop Boys!” or “I can hear The Human League in that hook!” The Rain Within has carved out a space for himself in a genre that has existed for decades…think about that for a second.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m absolutely in love with this album. In fact, I bought it on iTunes AND ordered the CD through Bandcamp. If you don’t believe me when I say that The Rain Within is the real deal and Atomic Eyes should be held in the highest of esteems, I’ve failed as a writer. I’m excited to be in a position where I can shout this brilliant record out to thousands and thousands of people…it’s why I do this. The shared experience of music is that closest thing we have to magic in this day and age, and Atomic Eyes has certainly cast its spell. It’s out now on Negative Gain Productions!
*Editor’s Note: I cannot WAIT to catch his performance at the NEON Retrofuturism Festival in Rhode Island this summer!!!