Much like his fellow labelmate, Klayton, Blue Stahli decided to start an 80s-inspired project. Thankfully, Sunset Neon’s first release is actually quite refreshing, offering up an unexpectedly wide neon color palate; this isn’t more retro-futuristic synthwave (though there is some of that on Starlight). No, this is a bright and bombastic 80s disco pop fever dream, the kind that will leave you smiling from ear to ear, and discovering that you’re somehow wearing neon leg warmers and a green and purple track jacket. While so many modern electronic acts looked toward sci-fi and horror movie soundtracks for inspiration, Sunset Neon actually reminds me more of those 80s blockbuster films like Top Gun and their fist-pumping, sugary sweet anthems; indeed, Sunset Neon is more Giorgio Moroder than John Carpenter. Artists like Empire Of The Sun and Neon Indian have certainly captured that Italian disco feel, though few take it quite as far as this.
That said, part of the appeal of Starlight is how it flows like the soundtrack to recently discovered 1984 film. Cinematic instruments are strewn about the album, though the highlights are when vocals take a front seat. “Got You” is a serious contender not only for my favorite song of the year, but for one of the single catchiest songs in recent memory. The presumably-on-purpose Michael Jackson impersonation is a nice touch, too. “You Are The Sun” and “Starlight” are vibrant and vivacious, recalling Moroder’s classic “Take My Breath Away” with a bit more pizzazz. The other true highlight is “Tonight”, which is a pitch-perfect training montage anthem, complete with an over-the-top guitar solo and gloriously prominent programmed drum machine beats. The unexpected cover of Prince’s “Kiss” works fairly well, too.
The only area where this falls somewhat flat is in the overall package. The aforementioned songs are fantastic, but some of the interludes feel somewhat unnecessary, and the Yung Bae remix of “Got You” takes away all of the flair and energy of the original. That said, those looking for a gleefully enjoyable nostalgia trip can’t do much better than Sunset Neon’s debut. By embracing some of the most campy elements of the decade (rather than the darker), Starlight is a lively and fantastic romp through the neon-colored past.