Crying - Get Olde
(Double Double Whammy 2013)
There's a fine line between gimmick and genius, and honestly, most of the "chiptune" projects I've heard fall under the former category, sculpting bland electronica out of nostalgia-inducing Game Boy sound effects. Though New York trio Crying make use of Nanoloop, a music creation tool built for the original Game Boy, it's by no means a mask for their sound, but rather a complement to their already powerful songcraft. Their first release, Get Olde, clocks in at around fifteen minutes and delivers whimsical, breezy pop throughout. The instrumentation is overwhelmingly upbeat, bursting at the seams with vibrant 8-bit color. It's pop-punk with an emphasis on the punk, not unlike Olympia, Washington's Tiger Trap. It can only be categorized by its emotion, really, and that's charming placidity. "Bloom", for example, is tinted with slightly crunchy, pastel toned guitars, which are overtaken by chiming synths that gave me a major flashback to the embarrassingly long hours I spent hunched over Pokemon: Leafgreen in grade school. The lyrics may come as a bit of a surprise though; they're a bit self deprecatory, adding a human element to the artificial cheerfulness concocted by the Game Boy. "Bloom" meditates on the frustration of being unable to drive a car (and ride a bike) properly, and "ES" discusses missed expectation. "Rat Baby" even concludes with a rather grim look toward mortality. ("If this is the pace at which I'm going, what will be left of me when I'm fifty-one?")
The way Elaiza Santos delivers her lines further adds to that humanizing element. They seem to be spoken offhandedly and fill the space left between bleeping chiptune tones. Similarly, I really respect their decision to include live percussion rather than a drum machine. Returning to the lyrics, there is one song that has a more lighthearted subject matter: Bodega Run. It's simply a story about ditching a band's show to buy Doritos, but it's told beautifully. And the music surrounding the verses is some of the catchiest you'll ever hear. Fuzzy power chords and riffs propel the sparkling synths, which bob, swell and explode at will. It's the greatest triumph on an album full of hits. Don't let the chiptune exterior fool you; Crying's debut is beautiful and complex.