While you’d be hardpressed to find anyone who wants to take the plunge into the Red River which runs through Winnipeg, Manitoba, even in the summer. The trio of artists who comprise VIKINGS don’t see their home city’s rather un-balmy climes as a deterrent to writing and releasing three fun, summery synth pop anthems, however. In fact, thumbing a nose at the cold and drawing out the summer may have been exactly the motivation for their dual single, “Talines”/”Swimming at NIght,” which dropped in mid-August and contains two remixes, making it sort of an EP. With mild Hot Chip-meets-Nick De La Hoyde vibes, these tracks are also a bit of a 180 from their last album, and apparently it’s for a reason.
2018’s obviously Tron-and-new wave-inspired album Electric Life could be described more as indie pop, with its darker tones, varied EDM beats (including rave trap and future bass) and dream pop-like hooks. This album saw quite a bit of pop success, especially with the Uber-popular “Run,” which bacame TikTok famous and was featured in rotation at Forever 21 stores. Can’t get more pop than that, can you? As VIKINIGS tell it, however, it wasn’t pop success that caused them to change their sound to the uber-pop of “Tanlines” and “Swimming….” It was a breakup.
There aren’t really any details as to te reason VIKINGS’s hiatus, other than, of course, the pandemic. It doesn’t actually sound like they stopped working on music during that time.
After a 3 year hiatus, VIKINGS spent the majority of 2020 in a lockdown studio session where we truly found our new sound….inspired by adventure and love the track was created in a maze of experimentation…The forthcoming songs embody two very different vibes while still maintaining the sound that is VIKINGS.
The “forthcoming songs” to which the band refer in this quote are now out in the form of the singles and their remixes, but one gets the imporession that this new sound will continue to develop thus. Whatever the reason for the change, there is still a nice, subtle indie pop core so fans of VIKINGS need not worry about a complete style shift; we’re not looking at 2010s Hanson vs 90s Hanson here. Fans will likely still enjoy the tracks if they liked the band’s first two albums and their 2017 EP, Animal Kingdom.
So what makes “Swimming at Night” and “Tanlines” so different from prevois work by VIKINGS? The style and heavy synth is still there, obviously, as well as clean production. It’s just generally more upbeat, and with these tracks the trio have really embraced that vein or pop that ran through previos iterations. The original mixes of both songs are 100% pop construction, beat and vocals, to the point where it borders on bubble gum. “Tanlines,” specifically, is Harry Styles-level pop. A bit of soul, a bit of funk but really all pop. “Swimming at NIght,” on the other hand, has a more indie pop vibe, a’la Cut Copy or Hot Chip, a’la a deeper key in the verse.
The “Tanlines” remix is by ASH HALO, another project VIKINGS’s synth programmer Dave McNabb has with fellow Winnepegian artist known as Saratonin, of the well-known bass duo Akylla. This version plays around with production more than the original, and the synths are a bit deeper to match the heavier bass, creating a slightly more modern vibe. It’s not EDM, but it’s adjacent and less new wave-influenced. The “Swimming at Night” remix is actually an edit that’s shortened the original track significantly. This highlights the pop value of the track as well.
Since “Tanlines” and “Swimming at Night” are technically teasers for the next album from VIKINGS, it will see if their “new sound” will permeate the whole album and inform all their work going forward, or if they still have some more indie pop tricks up their sleeves. The biggest question there is are they now full poptronica or will they, like thier previous work, do a lttile genre hopping into more solid EDM territory? Guess fans will have to wait for the album to find out.
“Tanlines” and “Swimming at Night” and their remixes are out now and can be streamed on Spotify and Bandcamp.