a soundtrack for slow motion youth (postcard boy)
By Liv Bjorgum
Postcard Boy creates a snapshot of youth with his echoing, electronic blend of rock, surf, and dance music. It isn’t shiny, nor is it too scratchy, lending it its subtle ability to blend into any situation. His tracks contain electronically layered vocals, which have a sound of being underwater, warped in the way film photos are after you’ve left them in the water too long. Postcard Boy’s reflective, intentional music forges a bond between the visual and the auditory senses, creating tangible, unpredictable songs that feel simultaneously refracted and dreamy.
Postcard Boy debuted his first song, “I Hope the World Never Ends,” on Spotify in August of last year, and has since presented eleven more and been featured on stupid rich kid’s EP. Even more of Postcard Boy’s songs are available on SoundCloud, allowing his listeners to access both refined releases and shorter demos. However, he never sacrifices his rare control over his music, which allows him to experiment so successfully. His unique ability to blend genres and create beautiful corresponding music videos has gained his music an eager audience.
The evolution of Postcard Boy’s artistry is evident through the chronology of his music. Postcard Boy’s first two, sunnier songs “I Hope the World Never Ends” and “Sun’s Too Hot” sound like summer vacation. Following these first two tracks are “This Isn’t Love,” “Red Dress,” and “Five Star Hotel,” which communicate themes of longing. “This Isn’t Love” recalls the brightness of the first two singles through its delicate, more acoustic guitar notes, while the vocals transition towards an echoing effect seen again in “No Tissues”. The following “Red Dress” conveys teenage anxieties along with repeated yet understated synth notes. The buzzing electronic rock track “No Tissues” stays steady with the beat of its undercurrent, which falls into pieces with the introduction of some lonely guitar chords, allowing the lyrics to be emphasized. The bareness here is reminiscent of the “Screaming out at the top of our lungs yeah my throat hurts” line of “Small Talk.” When the drums return, everything melds into a somehow calming cacophony that just makes sense, with an ending reminiscent of “Fast Cars.” “Small Talk,” the track released before Snow Globe Romance, feels similar yet has different nuances than the EP’s shimmering edge, which calls to mind raindrops on a car window in the middle of the night.
Snow Globe Romance, Postcard Boy’s first EP and only multiple-track project, features three slower, moodier tunes than some of his earlier works bound into a story by the EP’s composition. Postcard Boy explains Snow Globe Romance as “an audio project that looks through the fragile walls built around love, vulnerability, and transparency.” Each song on the EP (“Do You Feel,” “If You Can,” and “Fast Cars”) has a different mood, but they are all connected by the EP’s original mission statement. The opening track, “Do You Feel,” begins with solitary, “Out Getting Ribs” by King Krule-esque guitar notes, while “Fast Cars” ends with a wavering, distorted slice, like a TV channel change or a radio cut-out not dissimilar to the opening of “Do You Feel.” The repeated fizzling effect leaves the narrative with an analog cliffhanger, as if all three of the songs exist in a blip in time. Over the course of the three tracks, the troubles Postcard Boy originally talks about in the first song aren’t necessarily resolved, but are made less blurry through self-exploration. Listeners feel as though some internal clarity has been achieved, but the greater questions about the scheme of love and life that make up the material for his songs still exist.
“Passenger Seat,” Postcard Boy’s first song of 2019, is barely a month old. The combination of lyrics and the corresponding lulls and rises in the instrumentals provide a wider emotional range than some of his other works. On the self-reflective track, he queries, “Looking at yourself, do you even know yourself,” showing his doubt at supposed depth. “This sunset is so good/These sunsets hurt so bad” represent the confusion that comes with juxtaposing emotions. The video for the single is a spinning dream of melting sherbet, desperate phone calls, and tie-dye sunsets, infused with both the distinct feeling of solitude among many and a longing for change.
He also produces compelling visual companions to his tracks, where his San Diego influence can be seen. The magic does not stop with the music, as Postcard Boy’s album covers and music videos continue the narratives of his songs. Postcard Boy’s clean, collaged album covers feature two to four layered, rectangular photographs, which together in their diptych/triptych-esque arrangements influence the way one listens to his music. There are many ways of preserving memories, and Postcard Boy, with his successful photography and video-making under the name Phylm, certainly seems to understand that. The overlap in his creative outlets lends his music a cinematic feel. With the rhythms and organization of the tracks in “Snow Globe Romance,” it’s difficult not to imagine it as a movie soundtrack.
Although Postcard Boy and Tom Verberne mention the “center of suburbia” in their December collaboration “Coffin,” Postcard Boy’s songs feel free. His lyrics exist within all the little possibilities of life, and the slices of this life he provides for us through his photographs, often cropped, zoomed, or obscured, just make listeners want more. Postcard Boy’s songs reflect both the juxtaposing melancholy and freedom of such artists as Kevin Abstract, Maxwell Young, Kevin Pesto, and Roy Blair. Listeners can also hear the laid-back influence of collaborators Tom Verberne and stupid rich kid. However, Postcard Boy has created a sound all his own with electronically pared-down yet so identifiable today interpretations of timeless teenage emotion.
Postcard Boy’s layered vocals create a throughline, turning his songs into a comprehensive body of work fit to soundtrack your life (or to be included on the soundtrack of Palo Alto). The repeated undertones of Postcard Boy’s songs are vital to their development, yet allow the lyrics to shine when they fall away, representing the unpredictabilities of all the fragile moments Postcard Boy sings of. Let Postcard Boy be the soundtrack to your summer days and winter nights, to your drives on the highway, your long, late phone calls, and your time spent imagining and remembering it all.