Welcome Back Sailors- Tourismo

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, November 24, 2014

At the beginning of each week I usually make a playlist consisting of the albums I plan on reviewing in the near future. During more productive weeks I can get through the majority of them, but last week I found that rather than continuing to jump between different releases I continued to come back to Welcome Back Sailors’ new full length Tourismo each day. The Italian duo plays a particular brand of pop that falls somewhere between dream pop and synth pop, with a slew of additional influences on display. It’s the type of laid back, hook driven record that you can put on and completely lose yourself in, and a perfect example of how to do this style justice without sounding like a clone of the better known acts.

Synth driven melodies are at the core of what Welcome Back Sailors has to offer throughout this release, but the way that they are able to create their hooks varies from one track to the next. This is the type of pop that weaves in and out of sub-genres, ranging from the airy synths and chillwave vibe of opener “Best Friend” to the driving dance beat on “Something Great” where the sound suddenly explodes into a very 90s influenced type of pop. It’s rare to find material that is able to blur these different eras of synth pop and some dabbling in more mainstream soul without losing focus, but this is exactly what this duo has been able to achieve. No matter which direction the instrumentals head in, there’s always some sort of driving beat that will grab your attention and make you want to move to the music, and a catchy electronic melody that’s infectious and likely to have you hitting the repeat button right as the album finishes playing. Tourismo’s not all style and simple hooks though, as the way that the synth melodies expand and build over the course of each track creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that you can lose yourself in. There’s a perfect balance between that mellower introspective type of electronic music that’s good for calm nights alone and upbeat dance numbers that demand a group setting, and this interplay gives Welcome Back Sailors a feel of their own.

Vocals in synth/dream pop can vary wildly, as some groups prefer to bury the vocals underneath the layers of sound. Tourismo finds this duo going for the more direct approach, letting their singing be one of the most prominent elements on each song. This is definitely the right decision, as the vocals are very laid back and mirror the warm and inviting feeling that the instrumentals create. Compared to some of the others in the genre the performance does seem fairly subdued even though it’s front and center, but when the synths kick up towards some fuller climaxes and dance floor beats the singing follows suit and ramps up in energy, resulting in a more commanding presence that suddenly grabs your attention. Although I do tend to prefer the lighter, airier vocal style on music of this type, the moments where Welcome Back Sailors do decide to amp up the energy level and go for a more mainstream pop performance was still just as appealing.

Tourismo provides everything I could possibly want from electronically driven pop music. It has immediate hooks that draw the listener in with a warm and inviting feel, but there is substance to go along with the style. Welcome Back Sailors has been able to channel quite a few different elements from various eras of synth pop, chillwave, and even mainstream radio pop without falling too close to one particular band, making it evident that the years that have passed since their last release have been used to craft the strongest material possible. Far too often albums of this type grab me at the start but fade away far too quickly, but this one really has staying power and if you have yet to experience this duo for yourself Tourismo is a perfect entry point.


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