Los Angeles, 1982, night time, palm trees blowing in the rain, car tape deck on full blast, and it’s time to get out of town.
As we pull away from the final clutches of Old Man Winter, the arrival of the new season also signals the time to finally give the GDW email inbox a little cleansing; a little Spring cleaning, if you will. New releases are clearly not slowing down, given how the inbox continues to overflow with music submissions from the eastern corner of PEI to the north western tip of The Yukon, and every province in-between. We simply do not have the resources to read each email, so when I do set aside time to skim, it is usually those random few that look interesting at a cursory glance that catch my eye.
Drawing my attention to the intriguing description found in the quote above, Toronto, ON band, Oscar Tango, knew exactly how to pause my inbox surfing, and piqued my curiosity with this obscure sentence and the vivid picture it very quickly painted. When I think of the modern take on early eighties music, Canadian artists such as Adam Baldwin and The Darcys instantly spring to mind – and well, you know how popular these folks are here at GDW with their retro-throwback inspired sounds. There’s a lesson being shared here too – that if you want to be noticed, forget the cookie-cutter email templates and introductions, and instead, think outside of the box, load your ‘hook’ with some tasty ‘bait,’ and watch how quickly the fish shall ‘bite.’
Released today, “Staring Down The Night” is the latest single from Oscar Tango, and is a bona-fide musical accompaniment to the scene painted with their Los Angeles, 1982 narrative. And upon learning that at the forefront of the band is vocalist/guitarist Ryan Farley, I soon start to connect some dots – Ryan also plays keyboards for Toronto’s retro indie-rockers, The Actual Goners (featured on GDW back in August 2019) – so this return to the sounds of past generations is not entirely a new concept. “The song is about someone living in L.A. facing a sort of existential crisis leading them to getting out of town suddenly. The need to start something new and get away from the life of cocktails, swimming pools, and surreal personalities,” Ryan shares. “Maybe they are tired of the scene … but it’s high time they move to a remote patch of land and listen to the waves for a while.”
Opening with some remarkable era-appropriate guitar rings and synth strokes, this self-dubbed ‘Big City Power-Pop’ band whisks the listener away to a time where flared dance suits gave way to straight-cut pastel outfits, and disco music faded as synth-driven new wave music arrived. Ryan cites Mr. Mister, Squeeze, and even some 80s Billy Joel as their influences, which leave me positively giddy here, as I detect similarities of Joel’s “Moving Out” during those first few seconds of the introduction alone. “Driving on through the desert haze / Thinkin’ now it’s time to leave L.A. / The parking lots and chlorine pools at night / Shimmering in the downtown light,” recites Ryan, these opening lines gift-wrapped in the distinct sounds that helped define the popularity of early 80s AOR, with hints of Supertramp to start, and maybe even a little Yes as the tune progresses.
“Staring Down The Night” was recorded in the winter of 2020 at Ryan’s home studio, and mastered by Reuben Ghose (MONOWHALES) at Mojito Mastering Studio in Toronto. The single also adds a period-perfect guitar solo down the stretch, courtesy of Tristan Clark (Jacksoul), who recorded his riffs remotely in Nanaimo, BC. “The inspiration came from looking at pictures of mid-century motels in California online (there are some really beautiful and whacky ones out there) and I started thinking about this character who is living in L.A. in the 80s, maybe at a motel or maybe living out of their car,” Ryan adds. “We feel [Tristan’s] solo really captures the essence of rock circa 1982, when the song is set.”
“On the right side of the wrong line / Staring down the lights when it’s high time / Staring down the night,” rings the chorus, repeated when expected, and brought out for a final hurrah following the toe-tapping guitar solo to close out the song. You’ll find it incredibly difficult to experience this 3:12 journey just once, so be prepared to become very acquainted with your repeat button. And for those of you that crave more of these trips down early 80s memory lane, Oscar Tango have got you covered. “The tune is the first in a series of singles coming out this year,” offers Ryan. “Creating music has relied more heavily on cooking things up at home, due to the global situation at the moment, but we’ve been able to capture some interesting ideas nonetheless.”