Having covered Are You Anywhere before, it feels like we’ve been waiting for ages for a full record from these guys. A Romanian duo consisting of Silviu “The Guy” Pasca and Vladimir “Bite Your Lips” Coman-Popescu, they had quite the showing last year with their debut “Stay True,” which left me very impatient waiting for more music. Though we’ve had a slow drip of singles and a short LP released over the past twelve or so months, it was Recollection that I was truly looking forward to, knowing that AYA was sure to bring their A-game for a full length EP, and I’m happy to report that they not only did just that but did an excellent job at establishing an eclectic, unique, catchy sound all their own.
The album opens strong and surreal, with a title track that’s reminiscent of the work that Le Castle Vania has been doing for Stranger Things. “Recollection” sets the pace in an incredible instrumental way that makes it one of my favorite tracks of the album, an almost alien piece that sets the stage beautifully for what we’re going to hear next–the transition into “Afterlove” is so seamless that it makes the previous track feel more like a prelude than a separate song. In fact, it’s “Afterlove” that really gives us our first picture of Vladimir and Silviu as a duo and the magic they work when combining their talents. It’s a great dance-influenced track that really shines thanks to the feature verse by Chicago’s CLARKAIRLINES, which is easily one of the highlights of the album for me.
One thing that Are You Anywhere does consistently well is creating tracks that are upbeat and optimistic in a way that doesn’t feel overly packaged or forced. The sentiment is genuine and natural, and though it first shows in the bouncy “OneTwoThree,” it really shines through in the group’s first hit “Stay True.” This song hits all the right notes (literally and figuratively) and though we covered it last year, it’s remained one of my absolute favorites in the months since. Between the video game-y bridge, lyrics that seemed poised for the perfect tattoo, and the feeling that it is a sort of wanderer’s anthem, this is still one of the highlights of the record for me in spite of having already listened to it… well, too much. Let’s be real.
“Really Over” has a tough act to follow coming after “Stay True,” but it keeps the tempo up and leads well into the grim and a little gothy “Ocean of Blood,” a track that surprised me with how much I loved it. I love the heavier, darker beats on this one and in spite of the fact that the tone seems as if it could be at odds with the rest of the album, it’s nestled in a perfect place on the track listing and doesn’t feel like an outlier at all. It’s also a great set-up for the other stand-out single, “Piece By Piece,” which is a song that just soars in its own right. Musically, it paints a picture of a sun rising after the darkness of “Ocean of Blood” and serves as both a breath of fresh air and a peaceful transition during what has shaped up to be a really solid, dynamic track that feels as if it can work just as well as that trademark windows-down road trip song you know I love to look for on every album and as a club hit to dance your cares away at one in the morning. Maybe while crying after a couple drinks. We won’t judge.
Following our brief emotional moment and moving into the back half of the album, “The Tide” brings us comfortably back to the dance-heavy part of the record where it is followed swiftly by “On & On,” which not only feels as if it has chart topping potential in the electronic music department but it also continues the great EDM trend of pairing borderline depressing lyrics with otherwise cheerful music. (Art does imitate life, as they say. We’ve all been there.) This is continued into “KNow,” which is a pseudo-80s track featuring Jazzy Jo’s poppy vocals in a back-and-forth that seems to almost be a snapshot of the sorts of relationships highlighted throughout the rest of the album.
In fact, in as much as it is an upbeat dance record, in between the optimistic life mantras Recollection almost feels like a Memento-esque scrapbook of a relationship gone wrong: it isn’t necessary linear, but rather than feeling like an assortment of romantic songs it feels instead like a compilation of moments from an actual relationship that tells a story, however out of order, and it is a story that often looks inward at the narrator’s own life and faults rather than focusing solely on lost and found love.
As the penultimate track on the record, “Staring at the Sun” does a great job of highlighting this: it is a snapshot of vices with sharp, interesting beats that serve as a fitting lead in to “Center of Gravity,” which brings us back to where we started the record in a beautiful way. Punctuated with incredible haunting vocals by Illinois native Olivia Reyes, it serves as a fitting conclusion to a creative, catchy record that is an impressive collection for the group’s first major release.
If you’re looking for something a little different than the usual EDM or alternative fodder, I highly recommend checking this album out. While you can preview the whole album on Spotify if you’d like to listen before you buy, you can also support the artists (and Headphone Couture!) by picking up a copy on iTunes.
Recollection was released on October 25, 2017, via HaHaHa Production.