Now dripping a little sparkle on her brand of darkwave, LA-based artist Riki returns with her enchanting sophomore effort, Gold. Last year’s self-titled debut saw the artist confidently drop eight tracks of synthy menace, abrasive drums, and reverbed vocals causing the listener to grab their eye-liner in double-time. With the dreaded words ’80s inspired’ usually equating to a band cranking up the chorus pedal and rocking a loud shirt, Riki managed to deliver something wholly authentic sounding and devoid of imposter syndrome.
This wasn’t an artist merely trying to cash in on the creative cool of the ’80s underground, but rather someone who’s delivered an album that sounded like a long-lost release from the era. Jump forward to today, and she’s managed to combine her masterful use of a synthesizer and atmospherics and has pushed them into a poppier direction to fine effect.
That’s poppier with a lowercase P mind, the nine tracks on offer are still as brooding as a teenager in their bedroom, but there’s a clear sense of her songwriting maturing into something more distinct. Brilliant opener Lo begins with a repetitive vocal and drum track before smoothly transitioning into some catchy fretless bass-led action, showcasing the album’s groovier credentials. It’s the perfect declaration for the LP, danceable melancholy with a good dash of anthemic attitude. The following lead single, Marigold, sees her duet with Telefon Tel Aviv co-founder Josh Eustis, with whom she worked on Gold at his studio. With its driving beats and fists-in-the-air swagger, it’s reminiscent of a 21st century Kim Wilde and proves a real highlight.
On numbers It’s No Secret and the phenomenal Florence & Selena, the listener gets served pure dream fuel, Riki’s hypnotic production, and ethereal vocals weaving around sparsely used guitar licks. It’s material that impresses on a first listen but will crawl under your skin with repeat visits. A few tracks suffer from not being as grand a departure from her first release, and in being so, are less impressive than the previously mentioned standouts. Still, as a whole, the nine tracks hold their own as a singular vision. This is nighttime music, tunes for neon-soaked streets and lost lovers.
With her second album, Riki has traversed the treacherous second-album slump and landed on a fresh sound, revealing newfound confidence and calm. While certainly more marketable than last year’s gothic-soaked material, this is still haunted pop. There is talk of graves, sadness, and longing. Nostalgia and regret seep from its pores. It’s a perfect record for those who desire their music to have ambiance while still needing a dash of melodrama. There’s even a sax solo thrown in if that sort of thing tickles your fancy. We suggest crawling under a blanket, pouring yourself a red wine, and getting lost in its reflective aura. We’re very curious to see what this modern-day new romantic gets up to next.