Pop music by-and-large is an almost duplicitous endeavor, for while it is often criticized as simple and trite, there is a complex artistry to achieving that delicate balance of clever and catchy that, once it ensnares the listener’s psyche, is nigh impossible to forget… and despite our best efforts to deny it, it is just so damn satisfying. Such can be said of Heartracer’s The Feel, its 11 songs all striking with an almost surgical precision to deliver on the Richmond trio’s promise of anthemic electro-pop. Right from the onset of “World On Fire,” an almost angelic intro of graceful synth layers and strumming guitars hit with that easily identifiable ‘80s quality that bands like The Outfield, The Hooters, or even Bruce Springsteen presented so well in that decade; from Chip Cosby’s chiming guitar tone to Chris Cosby’s expressive tenor, the pure pop melodies are matched by the saccharine nostalgia of the lyrics, the song ending with the all too resonant line of “Didn’t even realize everything was not okay.”
Throughout The Feel, this formula is honed to a science, songs like “Through the Motions” with its syncopated rhythms and celestial synth arpeggios, the neon-lit nocturnal romance of Chip’s singing guitar leads and Wes Tatum’s vibrant bass on “Date Night,” or the crystalline acoustic strumming adorning “Living Like a Ghost,” with Chris and Kylee Swenson Gordon harmonizing and exchanging vocal lines so effectively that it tugs at all the heartstrings. It’s difficult to hear songs like those, “We Should Never Leave This Room,” the title track, or “Edge of My Heart” without feeling like you must have heard these songs on the radio more than 30 years ago; this is true even of “TXT ME BACK,” the lyrics lamenting communication breakdown in a perpetually connected age, the line of “I used to know what you were going through” being especially relatable. Even with the slickness of modern production, Heartracer simply nails the retro vibe, Denise Carter’s backup vocals and the addition of saxophones on “Until the Sun Comes Back” accentuating the irresistible vocal hooks and funky guitars in the same way Tim Capello did for Gunship’s “Dark All Day.”
To call The Feel a perfect pop album might seem like an overstatement, but it simply is the case that every song has the makings of a surefire radio hit. The meticulous production keeps the sound firmly planted in the present, while the songwriting will transport you to the halcyon days of youth as well as any DeLorean. Bravo, Heartracer!