Taking a sidestep from the crunch-pop of his day gig in Terry Malts, Corry Cunningham dives longingly into synthpop with convincing conviction. The eponymous album, released on his own imprint, Parked In Hell, captures an aesthetic that mines the early aughts’ love for the mid-80s. He’s got all the right hints of smeared window pane synth, 2 A.M. headspace-wandering jangles and lightly lapping beats that nudge the feet forward but don’t inspire any dance breakouts. Now on their own, those are hallmarks that dog-eared many acts in the wake of Ben Gibbard’s sudden affection for crying over keys vs. strings, and the shift has clotheslined many well-intentioned songwriters over the years. But getting it right, without feeling overly sappy or bogged down in influences takes a hard case.
Cunningham brushes off the flys of doubt, divining the core melancholy that makes this sort of synthpop work and he combines it with an approach that goes for subtlety over flash. He’s not necessarily reaching for hits territory, but he’s found a home between texture and temperance. The record winds up as aural comfort food, a smirking nod to those that always return to certain corners of the Factory, Creation and Sarah Records shelf when things look dour. In that regard I think the only true praise here is just a wordless nod in the night as we pass Cunningham walking around, hat pulled tight and breath rising cold into the street lamps. He might be right, “the world wasn’t made for us.”
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