Phillip Lauer's peppy, '80s-inspired sound shines brighter than ever.
Even when Lauer is shooting for simplicity, you can hear the obsessive levels of tinkering in each and every sound. He has a knack for dense arrangements and the full-throttle approach brings a modern touch to his arsenal of vintage synth sounds (he also has a brand new, purpose-built studio at his disposal on Answers 2 Trouble). Pacing-wise, the LP is impressive: the breakdowns never disrupt the grooves, while the songs progress in a linear fashion without being predictable, all while rapid arpeggiation brings a boundless energy. Tracks like "Atelananti" and "No More Push-Backs" made much more sense to me while I was flying down the motorway. Lauer swerves in and out of techno, Italo disco and acid, steering clear of any bumps in the road.
The guest appearances only sweeten the deal. On "Ghost," frequent collaborator Jasnau steals the show, with a head-turning mic presence (think Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan) over a gurgling bassline and some wonderfully retro snare hits. It all sounds more '80s than a lot of songs that were actually made in the '80s. Lauer's work feels poppier this time around, but a song like "Make It Stay" is poppy in a way that's far too vibrant and euphoric to turn your nose up at. Vocalist Dana casts rays of sunshine with an earworm hook, while Lauer's summery chords bring a to mind a sepia-tinted beach montage.
The flagrant, feel-good energy of Answers 2 Trouble is well-timed, almost nourishing. "Valentino III" sounds made for an intimate, late-night garden party, while more cinematic moments like "SNNO" would be just at home blaring out of your headphones in the bedroom during a close listening session. There's a heavy '80s influence in Answers 2 Trouble, of course, but the LP conjures feelings that aren't exclusive to just any one decade. There's a sun-baked nostalgia to it that applies to all good times, offering an optimism you can believe in, even in times like these.