The soundtrack to the noiry action-thriller Drive is often referred to as if it boasted a mixtape’s worth of chilly synth-pop when in actuality, there were only a handful of songs in it outside of Cliff Martinez’s. Those few songs thoughcounted big, and garnered a healthy boost in interest to all of the artists involved (except for maybe Italian composer Riz Ortolani, who you should do yourself a favor and check out anyway).
Chromatics had the most unassuming track with the instrumental “Tick of the Clock.” Their involvement though garnered lots of attention for their 2012 opus Kill For Love, which played like the soundtrack to a Drive sequel, filled with dreamy longing and tense pacing that evoked visuals of love, estrangement, and violence. Chromatics’ Johnny Jewel was also the author of “Under Your Spell,” the haunting ballad by Desire featured in the film. To this date, Desire have yet to capitalize on the success of the film outside a few tracks on the Italians Do It Better compilation After Dark 2. Kavinsky, who performs the film’s opening number “Nightcall,” has since released his Moroder-esque debut album OutRun, which leaves us the creators of Ryan Gosling’s theme song “A Real Hero” – College and Electric Youth.
The ownership of “A Real Hero” has always been a little unclear as the soundtrack’s sleeve credits the song as being performed by “College featuring Electric Youth.” College is the project name of French electronic musician David Grellier, so who or what was Electric Youth? The moniker of the female voice on the track? Another electronic musician or band providing synth-work on the song?
Well as it turns out, Electric Youth is the duo of childhood sweethearts Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin, and their debut album Innerworld (out September 30) utilizes a similar backdrop of nostalgic synths like those used on their most famous song, which they reclaim as their own in the album’s concluding suite. What precedes it is a set of songs with similar John Hughes-inflected sky-gazing. The name Electric Youth, and their affiliation with College couldn’t be more apt – these are tunes that scream out the drama of academic years, and with titles like “WeAreTheYouth,” “Innocence,” and “Runaway,” the point could not be driven further. This specialization is of course part of Innerworld’s charm. The duo has their niche, and it’s the type that is easy (and desirable) to revel in. Like a more condensed and traditional song-based Saturdays = Youth, this record captures the crisp autumn air of your first crush, and the late night jitters of a curbside make-out session.
But are there songs amongst the heavy mood? Some, yes. “A Real Hero” can’t help but feel removed from the collection being that it’s already four years old, but shortly before it is the superb “Another Story,” where Griffin’s vocals work harmonious magic with Garrick’s synths. “The Best Thing” is a sweet ode to a partner that would be fitting as a first dance at a wedding, and “Innocence” is a pure heart-beater with some choppy strings punching through. Other tracks like “Runaway” and “Tomorrow” have plenty of re-envisioned 1980s synth panache to make you long for your aviators and denim jacket, albeit with less of the earworm staying power as many of the hits from the time period itself.
Innerworld is a record that took a surprisingly long time to see release and it may not be the slam dunk one would hope for, but it’s a tight roster of lush, reserved synth pop. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and has moments that are downright gorgeous, even if it is more of the same 80s retro-gazing that has been a standard now for a decade or longer.