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noize magazine

DWNTWN

Racing Time

It doesn't matter if you're different from everyone else if you're doing it better. For the last several years there has been a steady stream of synth pop groups emerging, all with band names creatively using all caps and omitting vowels for whatever reason, but DWNTWN has consistently stood out from the rest like a lowercase letter. The x-factor is their nuance and juxtaposition. DWNTWN first came to my attention in 2013 with their heartbreaking The Red Room EP (a year after its release) which, in the midst of my own insane relationship, was a fun mix of empathy and torture. Vocalist Jamie Leffler's breathy delivery spoke to the frailty I felt while her words detailed all the betrayal and emotional wrenching that comes with perpetuating a relationship with someone you never should have given the time of day to... so it's fun music. But no really, it is. The nuanced x-factor comes from the hooky synth dream pop sound—reminiscent of the very best the 80s yielded—that is the foundation beneath the lovelorn country-esque feels. And the big choruses, despite their aching lyrical content, make love pains something fun to sing out loud. Now 5 years later the trio release their first full-length Racing Time with an evident progression in the sound that keeps the soul of where they began but broadens the soundscape to wide screen format. The 80s synth cum contemporary vocal editing wraps itself around a more liberal use of guitars throughout and even exaggerating at times the shades of country they've hinted at previously. The lyrical content expands a bit too on Racing Time, moving beyond just broken hearts to encompass life choices and even the death of Leffler's father (Howie Epstein, former bassist for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) on "Fourteen." The one criticism is that the growing pains of expanding from EP to LP formats are evident on the album's second half which dips in energy and urgency in comparison to the first. Things pick back up with "Lonely," and sails out nicely with the soaring "As The Sparrow Goes." For queer audiences, DWNTWN speaks almost directly to, wrapping vulnerability in excess and relentlessly pursuing fun in the midst of pain.