Nowadays, good music is hard to find. See what I did there? Nowadays is indeed good music, and you found it! It’s also the second full-length album from Copenhagen-based alternative rock duo Palace Winter. Although their own genre description on their Facebook page is ‘cinematic psych-pop’, which I find way more accurate. Nowadays was released on May 4, 2018 via the incredibly-named, also Copenhagen-based label Tambourhinoceros. The two members making up Palace Winter are Australian singer-songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager. They have been releasing music under the Palace Winter moniker since 2015 starting with their first EP. Then, in the summer of 2016, they released their first record, Waiting for the World to Turn, also under Tambourhinoceros (I really wanted to say that again).
Don’t be fooled by the acoustic-driven, synthy pop music; the lyrics are exceptionally dark. The main themes are death, loss, and also how growing up can be both pleasant and painful. These two artists must have been going through a difficult time and were able to use their anguish for inspiration. The album starts, very fittingly, with “Birth”, an instrumental 80’s synth pop-sounding number that really grabs your attention. It’s atmospheric but yet a bit uncomfortable due to the minor chords played on the keys. “Take Shelter” kicks off with the with the chorus, led by piano and synths. The vocals at first reminded me of old Alice in Chains. A very dark song about coping with the loss of a loved one.
“Empire” sounds like a lost song by Tears for Fears. Once again there is a giant contrast between the glossy music and the lyrics dealing with anxiety, but it blends so well. Carl Coleman has said before in interviews that he can’t write happy songs. “Come Back (Left Behind)” is another faster-paced 80’s synth pop track. This time, the bleak and gloomy lyrics are about coming to terms with the loss of a lover. “Acting Like Lovers”, is a little slower than the majority of the album, and it’s about a traumatic incident that brought lovers closer together. The song’s outro features hauntingly beautiful strings and pads for the last minute of the song, leading into the final track.
“Kenopsia” might be my favorite track on the album. It’s just Hesselager’s electric piano and Coleman’s vocals. Every song on this record so far has been layered with lush instruments, so just keys and vocals really stands out. This song reminds me of “Manner of Travelling” by Hot Fiction. It also ties in the whole album from “Birth”: the definition of Kenopsia is the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet. Kind of like a school hallway in the evening. A feeling of emptiness. So the album begins with birth and ends with emptiness, or death. It also covers every emotion in between. Nowadays ends with these lyrics: ‘All my memories will erase in time/It’s all that I can be, my love not worthy‘.
If you’re looking for a feel-good album, maybe try to find the instrumental version. The music of Palace Winter might be bright and upbeat; the lyrics, however, tackle the difficulty of death, loss, and trying to stay focused on the present while there is disorder all around. I think this is a great album, though I wish the tempo or time signature were more varied throughout. It’s a little hard for the songs to stand out since they are so sonically similar. Being Palace Winter‘s second album, Nowadays is headed in the right direction. I am excited to hear what they come up with next.
Notable Tracks: “Take Shelter”; “The Ballroom”; “Empire”; “Kenopsia”
FFO: Tears For Fears, The Depeche Mode