Korine’s New Album is an ’80s Synth Throwback with Emotional Heft

Korine’s New Album is an ’80s Synth Throwback with Emotional Heft

Blistering synth and an endless cajoling to dance to emotional lyrics characterize Korine’s second album.

I often find that some of my favorite songs to dance to aren’t very happy. In fact, most of my favorite music in general is sad. It’s even better when you find music that sounds happy, but when you listen to the lyrics they’re sad. It’s such a wonderful contradiction. 

If all that is your jam, then The Night We Raise by Korine is definitely for you. Made up of Trey Frye running the synths and Morgy Ramone writing lyrics and singing, this Philadelphia duo has crafted a great album of ‘80s influenced synthpop. There’s an undeniably retro feel, full of wonderful synth riffs, but there’s also a modern feeling throughout that I can’t quite put my finger on. Whether the songs are joyful or sorrowful, they’re always the kind that make you want to dance. It’s a kinetic album that’s also jam-packed with some emotionally hard hitting lyrics from Ramone, and their vocal performances heighten the emotion on every track. It’s an irresistibly excellent album.

A gentle synth rises, crashes, and breaks into a fun beat on the opening track “For Sure.” The layers of synth expand into the chorus, when more and more rush in. It’s a veritable symphony of synth sounds, big bright flashes and percussive crashes. The melody is irresistible when it cuts loose, and it’s hard not to move. There’s a triumphant sound while Ramone belts above it all. The lyrics over the instrumentation add a layer of complexity.  There’s tension and contradictions aplenty: “This is love for sure / I don’t think that I can fucking take any more.” It’s one of those great dancey songs with a more conflicted lyrical story overtop.

“Fate” comes next, and brings plenty of synth grooves. Frye adds and subtracts beats and different keyboard sounds often, keeping the track evolving and never getting stale. There’s a darker, more emotionally charged feeling to the song. It sounds like walking down a hyper-stylized ‘80s synthwave alleyway, all dark blues and neon pinks. Ramone weaves a tale of need and loss in the lyrics. They capture the feeling of absolute need for another person, and the pain that can come with rejection. The two members of Korine are great at creating a mood and atmosphere. They sometimes complement each other’s sounds, and other times have fun with juxtaposition.

The next track “Cruel” bursts in and wastes no time. Echoey claps float above layers of synth riffs and busy percussion. Ramone sings with restraint on this one, as though if they let themself loose they’d lose control, but there’s emotional power in holding back. The choruses are big and loud, the synths unleashed as Ramone repeats “I could be cruel.” The track amps up the menace though as layers are stripped away to Ramone’s voice and a synth riff like a gallop that grows slowly. The lyrics accentuate the gloom with some great lines from Ramone:

“I’m alive in your tomb

I’m making you sigh

Now the feeling is gone

Just like Venus you shine

I’m alone in the wood with the spirit entwined and

I could be cruel”

That feeling never quite leaves, even as the song bursts back open for the loud, synthy finale.

Next on the album is “Nothing Here.” This one feels joyful and eager, leaving the darkness behind. The synths are bright and full of energy and the song just carries you straight to the dance floor. Ramone sings with desperation and pure heart on this one. It tricks you with a fake ending that comes early, but the song just can’t be stopped. It explodes repeatedly, each time feeling like you’re cutting loose. There’s an earnestness to the track. It doesn’t feel mindlessly happy, but feels like perseverance. It represents pushing through and finding happiness wherever you can.

“Cold Heart” begins with synth that sounds like backup singers and a moody, driving beat. Ramone echoes the moodiness with their vocals, but the song never gets bogged down. It feels gloomier, but it still drives you to movement. There’s a plucked string quality to one of the synth layers that adds a great bit of texture, and the echoey drum fills before verses are awesome. From the very beginning it feels emotionally charged, and Ramone’s lyrics do a great job of capturing feelings of rejection. The lines, “I could’ve waited for you / It’s like waiting’s all I do / I’ll bleed for you,” are great and feel so honest, but the final lines are killer: “I felt crushing love, I know now what you’re afraid / of and it’s love.”

Plucked guitar, a stomped beat and rapid tambourine amp up the tension on “When We’re One”. Ramone’s vocals are breathier here. Then the rest of the synths charge in and keep the track taut. The synth layering feels almost overwhelming at times, highlighting the desperation in Ramone’s lyrics. They sing about pain and isolation, and the closer you listen the harder it hits. Frye’s instrumentation continually evolves but is always irresistible, driving you to move, even as the emotional weight of the song cuts you deep to the final line “I want to see you in the end.”

“The Last” is in fact the second to last song on the album. The synth riffs and layers intertwine and separate, coming back together only to split up again. There’s a glittery synth in that mix that has an especially great sound. The track is another emotionally charged one, but it never feels like it’s wallowing in negativity. Ramone’s vocals and lyrics are emotionally honest, and Frye crafts instrumentation that complements those qualities but still gets you moving. Ramone tells a story of loss with some choice lyrics, like the lines “Don’t know me / Only what I used to be / Just a shell can’t you tell?” Ramone has a great talent for weaving lines with serious heft into these still dancey songs, especially the final lines:

“A dream’s not supposed to hurt

You were in my life

But now you’re not

I don’t want to love again

It’s not the perfect heart

You want I can’t help feeling sad This time will be

The last”

The final song on The Night We Raise is “Cast,” breaking through the gloom with bright, shining synths and huge echoey drums. This one captures the subdued joy that runs through the album. It’s happy, but not overly so–sort of quietly triumphant. The album title appears in the lyrics, and the track feels like a celebration. Ramone sings with unabashed attitude, still capturing vulnerability but overlaid with perseverance. The glittery synth is back and this time it only heightens the celebratory feel. The energy on the track is absolutely contagious and it just keeps going. Most of the songs on the album end abruptly, but this final track keeps playing into a slow fade out. It’s always great to end an album with a feeling of jubilation.

Korine’s second album is a wonderful experience. There’s such a sense of movement throughout the album, you just have to dance along. Even when the songs delve deep into emotions, gloom, and introspection, you never stop feeling the urge to move. The Night We Raise is a great chunk of retro feeling, but definitely modern synthpop.

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