It’s easy to look back at the New Romantic movement and view it as a purely fashion-based subset of new wave aesthetics, but as Dutch duo Pol are reminding us on their first EP, there were plenty of musical markers which distinguished Visage, Ultravox, and the like from their broader field of synthpop and new wave peers. That elevated and austere approach can easily be clocked on “Sentimental Figures”, which seems to lift from Japan’s “Taking Islands In Africa” and Ultravox’s “Serenade”, complete with some ARP Odyssey noodling. “Modern Strange Love” links Moroder programming to the anthemic refrain of Animotion’s “Obsession”. If those influences read as a bit arch or poised (did I mention that brothers Ruben and Matthijs Pol are also fashion models?), the speedier “Boys Are” and “Comme Ca” have a bit more bounce and punch, with the particulars of the synth programming taking a back seat to the beat. It’s lead track “L’Amour Fait Mal” which ends up taking the cake, though, finding the delicate balance between atmosphere, harmony, and drive which so much original coldwave lived and died by.
The music on the self-titled EP from Calgary’s Wants speaks both to artist Jeebs Nabils’ previous association with that city’s idiosyncratic synthpunkers Melted Mirror, and some very au courant melodic darkwave sounds. Where the smooth guitars and vocals of opener “Decline” place it in the company of club oriented cuts by ACTORS or Twin Tribes, there’s a liveliness to the drum programming that gives it its own flavour. Follow-up “Divine Promises” leans more heavily on Nabils’ vocals, allowing his forthright delivery to add dynamics and give the song body, as does “Fate and Fear” with its more halting arrangement and melancholic mood. Closer “Mention” proves to the most interesting track, working a small amount of playful funk into the rhythm arrangement, porting it over from post-punk to new wave without going full glossy neon.