Throwback styles, especially those that model the 80s, tend to be covered in about ten layers of irony and hipsterism when presented to the world nowadays, and it’s no wonder. The jangly synths, neon eyeshadows and Flock of Seagulls hairstyles that typified the 80s pop scene weren’t even a hundred percent serious at the time. In an era fueled by cocaine and Diet Coke, we can’t exactly blame modern artists for poking a little fun at the era that brought us Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and Van Halen’s “Jump.”
That said, even the eye-rolliest of indie pop denizens can’t quit the 80s, especially when it comes to those classic early synths. Moog or Moog adjacent, full of mid-range pop cachet and causing uncontrollable nostalgic flashbacks to the mall, the world of Tron or somewhere in between, 80s pop has endured because it’s fun and there’s a lot to be done with those synths. That’s where we find Emery Pulse and her second single “Gift Box”: at the corner of synths, fun, pop and a little bit of nuance.
Emery Pulse only has two tracks out thus far, with her 2018 debut single “Show Me Who You Are” a musically balladified version of Tiffany’s cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” and definitely on the bubble gum spectrum. It was clear with “Show Me Who You Are” that Emery Pulse loves her synths and is an unabashed 80s fan, but “Gift Box,” which came out late last year, is the full 80s package.
With a lyrical double meaning so strong that it’s almost graphic (“reach in, the tissue’s paper thin”? Okay, Pandora’s blushing at this point), “Gift Box” captures more than the bubble gum nostalgia of the 80s but also its cheeky sense of fun. There’s no need to be satirical of the synths from Emery’s perspective; most of the music was already a parody of itself. Meanwhile that 80s musical aesthetic is jacked up to the max in this track with even more synth layers, some poppy funk guitars and bass and – what 80s pop song could be complete without it – a rip roarin’ and somewhat out of place Richard Marx-style guitar solo by Chris Camozzi. And, starburst fade at the end…that’s a wrap. One can almost see the Michael Bolton fist grab with that outro and we bet Emery and her crew loved creating that starburst without any pretense.
For those of use who grew up in the 80s and knew that a good song didn’t end without a starburst fade, the nostalgia of Emery Pulse and “Gift Box” is so real, we can smell the wood paneling in our parents’ basements as we rushed down the stairs with out 3rd bowl of latch key Corn Pops so we wouldn’t miss the next 80s rocker after the commercial on MTV (back when they actually played music videos). That’s how sincere Emery Pulse is with her 80s pop: no “indie” or “electro” tags needed here to justify. Emery Pulse thinks these sounds (and their tongue-in-cheek, not-so-subtle lyrics) can endure all on their own, thank you, and if “Gift Box” is anything to go by, she’s right.
“Gift Box” is out now and can be streamed on Spotify.