The brainchild of BlutEngel’s Chris Pohl, She Hates Emotions has returned with a new full-length album. Following on from 2020’s Melancholic Maniac, and arguably stepping even more boldly onto the stage set up by BlutEngel’s cover-loaded Fountain of Destiny, Happy Pop Music is another love letter to the ‘80s and sets about using the sounds of the era to reply, 40 years late. While fans of synthpop will likely love this one, it will charm synthwave fans as the album sits partially in the latter genre without becoming too cliché and manages to balance the brighter side of Pohl’s songwriting with themes of isolation and turmoil.
Previously released as a single, “This Ain’t Good” calls to mind the stylings of Propaganda with synths that follow the voice along with brassy fanfare and percussive synth hits. “Space & Time” will be familiar to fans of BlutEngel with its more straightforward poetic musings and mentions of “standing on the shore” – it’s a big, emotive track that shines, even more exceptionally on the 12” version. “Another Step into the Future” lyrically mourns the past with lines like “bring back those good old days,” and a strong feeling of something like Laura Branigan with its big “whoa-ohs” in the chorus. At the same time “This Is the End” pulls listeners along with a driving bassline and frantic hook that matches the desperation in the lyrical themes of losing hope.
Overall, it’s not an album that pushes into anything new… but that’s the point. Happy Pop Music does what it says on the tin while evoking a sense of nostalgia with lush, shimmering synths, infectious melodies, and homages to many of the synthpop artists of the ‘80s, and even providing nods to some lesser revered bands. It’s a lovingly crafted tribute with a unique melancholic edge that feels natural to Chris Pohl’s palette and vocal range and style.