Have you ever thought of an album as the perfect record for (insert season here)? There are times when I listen to a record front-to-back and come away thinking, “Damn, what a wonderful autumn album”, or “Gee, this album lives and breathes summertime.” YSSY’s debut EP is one such record for me. The Way It Was gives me hope for a splendid spring and makes me eager for new growth and experiences. Toronto’s YSSY released four of The Way It Was’s six songs as singles last year, so it cannot be said that this Valentine’s Day release was meant to echo my seasonal opinions. Nevertheless, I dare you to prove me wrong. Tell me that a full listen of this twenty-five-minute synth-pop kamikaze doesn’t tip its hat to longer and more fruitful days ahead (especially now with COVID-19 keeping us all quarantined).
Nostalgia is a prominent theme that echoes throughout this EP, as well as finding new ways to resurrect something that you once thought couldn’t take root. The duo, Elliot Caroll and Simeon Abbott, met on a first date, looking to spark up a new chance at love. A shared interest in pop music and production was the tinder that ignited their blaze. “At Least We Know”, the opening track, pays homage to ABBA, with staccato piano chords kicking in midway through the rapturous chorus. The disco-pop anthem is also reminiscent of Scottish synth-pop group, Chvrches, though Caroll’s vocals are much more pronounced and effortless.
The album springs forth with “Sooner”, whose bass keys drive the song with relentless groove. Caroll sings about the realization that you may have feelings for someone that you were never mindful of prior to the moment of truth. The duo finds impressive ways to fill each song with clever layers of synths and percussive effects. The best example of this is “Burn My House Down”, a flowering tune whose intimate piano chorus coexists among a multitude of diverse melodies that intertwine with a focussed drum groove.
“90s Crush” certainly has its appeal for those who can relate to its numerous twenty-something-year-old pop culture references. As someone born in the mid-90s, the extent of what I can remember from that decade is trading Pokemon cards during kindergarten recess and Michael Jordan’s final years of dominance with the Chicago Bulls. Still, Caroll takes you on an opulent nostalgic stroll: renting VHS; trading tape cassettes; referencing iconic 90s songs in her line “Still chasing waterfalls, and wonderwalls”. “How to Fall Out of Love”, and “You Stay I Stay” offer further interpersonal exploration on love and the feelings you experience when you think it could last forever. They are both dreamy, cheery, and empowering.
With clever hooks aplenty, The Way It Was is a welcome wake-up call to spur listeners out of their deep winter hibernation and, like leaves blooming on trees in springtime, sparks a sense of awakening and renewal to all who experience it.