One of my favorite songs from 2021 was Lycia’s “Galatea,” which found the venerable darkwave band infusing their gloomy sound with infectious synth-pop. At the time, I wrote “I’m not saying that I want an entire Lycia synth-pop album, but a few more songs in this vein? Sure, I’m down with that.” And that’s exactly what Mike VanPortfleet and John Fair have given us with Simpler Times.
To be fair, Lycia has had a dancier side that stretches as far back as “This Decline” from 1989’s Wake EP. But the two songs on Simpler Times — which was also released as a 7″ single by Italy’s Avantgarde Music — are much sleeker and more polished. VanPortfleet’s voice is still a menacing, ice-cold whisper as he sings about memory, loss, and nostalgia, and his guitar tone is still as sharp as icicles. But those elements meld seamlessly with lively beats and synthesizer lines that almost sound, dare I say, upbeat on the title track. (The b-side, “A Far Away Place,” is a more traditional Lycia track, but it still boasts a pop vibe.)
That is, of course, patently ridiculous. Lycia would never, ever release music that was “upbeat.” So let’s just say that Lycia’s entering a more energized and invigorated phase, and I, for one, am loving every second of it.