On “Today Is Our Life,” the third track on Memory Tapes’ sophomore effort Player Piano, Dayve Hawk, the sole force behind the project, sings, “I don’t wanna scream, I don’t wanna remember.” This line, in a way, encapsulates Player Piano as a whole. He won’t scream. He’ll let his guitar, which comes out of nowhere to deliver a solo worthy of a Pixies song, do the screaming for him. And he doesn’t have to remember, because Player Piano asks us do the remembering for him. At times, the album sounds like a lost soundtrack to the TV show Wonder Years. At others, it’s The Cure by way of Wes Anderson.
With a run time just shy of forty minutes, Player Piano is a quick, breezy record, careful never to overstep its ambitions or ask too much of the listener. That’s not a slight; this is a Chillwave album after all. Being quick, breezy, and never asking too much of the listener are basically the tenets of the genre.
Still, the album does have a way of catching you off guard. There’s the guitar solo on “Today Is Our Life,” for one. It cuts through the woozy, electronic pop of the rest of the record with precision, capturing the ineffable, esoteric frustration that the song’s lyrics attempt to express. Meanwhile, Hawk’s lyric on “Offers” states, “This is just a fantasy,” conversing with the song’s overall Renaissance Faire vibe offered by plinking harpsichord and keyboard lines that sound downright madrigal. Then there’s “Humming,” a drone track that splits the record, which slowly morphs into perhaps the calmest Drum & Bass track ever put to record.
Strengths aside, a lot of this album sounds like a more lo-fi version of UK dream-poppers Broadcast, and despite the surprises that Dayve Hawk peppers the Player Piano with, it has a tendency to run together. Still, this is a solid record, at times sparse and moody, at times lush and hopeful, but always chill. Very, very chill.