“After Hours” the brand new full length album by Arrows, says all it needs to about the brand of retro nostalgia this kind of music evokes. The project’s sonic palette is especially dense with layer upon layer of synth sounds stacked upon one another and wrapped up in a modern production veneer that makes it bang. Every song delivers big in the keyboard hooks department and the moods are consistently melancholy and wistful throughout. “After Hours” is Arrows hitting their stride; this is what it sounds like when a young band is killing it.
Inspired by 80’s synthwave and video game sound tracks, Arrows only started creating synthwave music in 2019. That same year founding member, Brennan Hales, released the debut EP, “CPU Says No”. The single, “Thinking of You” followed, and was featured on the Ukraine synthwave label, Retro Wave Touch’s “Best of 2019” Compilation Album.
While Arrows was also up for “Best New Musician” by Retro Wave Touch. Shortly after releasing “After Hours”, which also featured singer Savannah Jane, founding member Brennan Hales was joined by Jordan Tanguma, which now made Arrows a duo.
Throughout “After Hours”, Arrows display a layered soundtrack, creating atmospheres that dictate the progression of each track. By focusing on an extensive range of motifs for each composition, the project is able to bring in and out multiple layers on a whim, giving an abundance of sonic changes without losing momentum.
Keeping within their primary synthwave influences, Arrows uses cycling melodies and modulating synths to sweep you away into the record’s landscape. Starting out with the opening tracks, “1P Pres Start” and 8-Bit Lifestyle”, and for the majority of the record, Arrows keep their sonic vision strong with an abundance of diversity and references for both synthwave and videogame music fans.
“Wings” is a neon drenched soundtrack of a distant future, based on a foundation of solid songwriting. “II. Above Us” swirls with slow mystery as it leads us into the powerful resonant tones of “Bright” ft. Jason Klobnack. “Visions” rides a bumping bassline and slapping drums, all awash with crunching synth motifs. It roars out of the speakers in a blaze of sonic blast.
The “III. Understand” interlude quietly introduces us to the album’s centerpiece – “Terrified” ft. Savannah Jane. This is a stunning and soulful vocal track, ready for any radio station. The main thing to take away from this track is that Arrows, despite having a defined stylistic playbook, are not ones to stay grounded to any particular sound, trend or cliché.
Here they showcase their abilities to navigate the luscious sounds of modern mainstream while still retaining their gorgeous retro synths. “Last Night In London” is another beautifully constructed mid-tempo tune, while “IV. Midnight” explores the band’s more delicate and emotional side.
This is certainly a synth-driven album but don’t be fooled. This is also an album full of real emotion. “Waking Up” sounds clear, crisp and polished, and it’s a beautiful mix of simplicity and complexity. While at the surface level, this song might seem quite simple, there’s actually a myriad of little changes going on throughout, and if you listen to it with a keen ear, you will get exponentially more out of the experience.
The title track, “After Hours”, comes at the very end, and once again, great swathes of sound cascade, creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. The track is energetic and raucous, and has a punchiness to the beat that makes it all encompassing for its run-time.
Overall, “After Hours” is electronic, retro-futuristic music that is coated in a thick layer of nostalgia, 80’s longing and a truckload of synthesizers. Propelled by serious ambition and layered songwriting, the synthwave-inclined Arrows duo create an album that demands the listener’s attention.