Miami Nights 1984’s First New LP in a Decade Is a Triumph

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Miami Nights 1984 (AKA Michael Glover), the Victoria, British Columbia-based synthwave pioneer, hasn’t dropped a studio album since 2012’s highly influential Turbulence. That changes today, with the release of the exquisite 15-cut Sentimental. A couple of the tracks you’ll find familiar — there are the popular singles from several years ago, “Accelerated,” “Pavement Surfing,” and “Sunseeker,” along with a number previously called “Untitled” and only available on a random Vehlinggo mix a few years ago — but it’s also loaded with new cuts that include a collaboration with synthwave juggernauts Gunship. The whole thing is a triumphant return.

Generally, the cuts have more in common compositionally and thematically with MN84’s 2010 debut LP Early Summer and Turbulence than Glover’s film score for 2021’s Flinch (more on that in this interview on The Vehlinggo Podcast). This is to be expected, given the different expectations of the formats. Notably, on Sentimental Glover retains the classic synthwave sound he helped pioneer, while adding in some more modern elements to successful bridge the pre-Drive and post-Stranger Things elements of the scene. He never strays into territory as dark as his Rosso Corsa Records co-founder Garrett “Lazerhawk” Hays, but there are some forays into territory far less sunnier than his 2012 modern classic cut “Ocean Drive” from Turbulence.

One of the interesting aspects of Sentimental is, as I mentioned above, the inclusion of 2015 cuts “Pavement Surfing” and “Accelerated,” the latter which in that year he promoted as the first single off a forthcoming new album. He seems to have inexplicably never uploaded it to Spotify and related platforms, although it’s nearing a million streams on Soundcloud and has likely far exceeded a million YouTube plays across all the videos people have made for it. The kinetic piece of classic outrun is perhaps even more popular than “Ocean Drive” in terms of its place in the synthwave pantheon. It features Glover’s trademarks, such as propulsive rhythms, colorful synthscapes, and catchy hooks. The cut and its essence have been copied so many times since 2015 it can be easy to forget that “Accelerated” is a masterpiece, while so many others are cheap imitations fraying at their edges. Also as I mentioned above, 2017’s lovely mid-tempo moodscape “Sunseeker” finds a spot on the album, too. I’m glad he included it.

Glover deftly handles the intersection of those previously released numbers with the new offerings such that Sentimental never feels like a hodge-podge compilation. It’s a fundamentally cohesive album. Consider “Only When It’s Dark,” the slow-burning and wistful collaboration with the UK-based GUNSHIP, who first entered the scene around the time “Pavement Surfing” dropped. This is the first official vocal number from Miami Nights 1984 and Alex Westaway’s yearning pipes are a perfect complement to the multi-layered synth tapestry Glover unfurls. It’s a cut for those romantic sunset soirees on a crisp and clear night.

“Heat” is warm bath of pastel synths and the delectable sea-salt touch of a brutal summer day. The title cut is a pronounced strut with dank synth arps that contrast the dreamy synth pads that flutter behind them, giving way to a wistful melody that altogether are a formula for the often complicated emotions with which even our best memories are imbued.

The cinematic “Voyage,” which you first heard on Vehlinggo Mix 12 in December 2007, has a delightful momentum to it despite its slower pace. There is a dreamy earnestness to the array of synths, a sentiment the extended guitar-sounding solo deftly amplifies. “Keep Running” comes off as an homage to the minimalist delights of late-Aughts College and the Valerie Collective sound in general. It has that gritty bass part that dominates the arrangement, with a disciplined swirl of synths that spin around it. Infused in it all is a quintessential Miami Nights 1984 vibe that only Glover can really do. It makes me long for the two to do a show together. Hell, I’d sponsor it.

The sand-worn “Tuff Turf” has gigantic, gated drums and apprehensive synths that turn around in place as if Glover is providing a cue to a key scene in a gritty ’80s action flick — but then that stasis gives way to a wave of synths that follow the path of a pronounced, emotive piano part. Don’t forget the sound effects. Overall, this would indeed make for one helluva film cue. I could see its utility in any number of rescores, but a film by director Tony Scott seems most appropriate. “Coastal Bliss” lives up to its name, in terms of the feeling and color it evokes, and it’s a little weird at times, too. It’s a delight.

Album closer “Decelerated” does a good job of being a complementary part of a duality that includes, of course, “Accelerated.” It’s one of the numbers on the record that shows that Glover’s been honing his craft and paying attention to what has been going on around him on studio albums and in film these past 10 years. (The chillsynthy “Ascend” is similar in this way.)

Ultimately, at a time when synthwave is falling prey to copywave and a general oversaturation of tropes that have been around longer than the 1980s, it’s refreshing to hear one of the genre’s inventors find a way to tap into the foundational sonics that made him one of the greats — while nevertheless doing something new. He gives us old folks yelling at a cloud something to love, while letting the newbies know what’s what.

It’s out now via Miami Nights 1984’s Bandcamp page (and eventually streaming services and in physical form).

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