Shout Out Louds celebrate ‘80s pop with “Optica”

Shout Out Loud’s “Optica” earns three out of five stars.

Parker Munson, Writer

The 1980s ended for a reason. Maybe so we are able to sift through all the ego and glamour shots in order to do away with the vanity and find what made ‘80s pop music, actually, not too bad. I mean — say what you will about Duran Duran, but you know the next time “Hungry Like the Wolf” comes on, you’re going to grab your partner’s hand, skate to center rink and dance like nobody’s watching. When ‘80s inspiration begins to leak into modern music, we’re able to enjoy all the catchiness of Tears For Fears without the game tokens jingling in our pockets. This is exactly what the Swedish indie veterans Shout Out Louds have done with their fourth album, “Optica.”
If you were paying attention when the band’s last album “Work” dropped in 2010, you may have felt some change approaching. They were experiencing growing pains as they wrestled with whether they still had it in them to ensure the band be more than a means to an end. Undoubtedly, the success of the subsequent tour whipped them right back into shape, allowing them to clean out the cobwebs and see things clearer. Three years later, we’re listening to an album sounding huge enough to fill amphitheaters without sacrificing the down-to-earth humility that makes Shout Out Louds relatable.

New album brings new perspective to artist discography

“Optica” brings a much needed roundness into the otherwise linear Shout Out Louds discography. Putting away the glockenspiel and plugging in the synthesizers, the group has moved out of their parents’ living room and have journeyed into the expansive boundaries of outer space — which is really just a way of saying they’ve changed a lot, as well as a nerdy and cryptic reference to their music videos.
At the very heart of the album, “Optica” explores the tension between the perceived dullness of adulthood and the nostalgic luster of youth. In “Burn,” a track packed with lyrical allusions to the band’s 2005 debut “Howl Howl Gaff Gaff,” vocalist Adam Olenius speaks to the group’s newfound hope since then: “You say we burn and we burn without a fire / You say we’ll hold on, hold on, until we expire.” And though it may not be as optimistic as fans would hope for, it sounds like Shout Out Louds are in it for better or worse.

"Optica" leaves some ambiguity

As profound and insightful as it can be at times, “Optica” generally plays like the ‘80s summer mix tape your mom has got filed in a shoebox somewhere. If you’re not certain whether that’s a good or bad thing, well — that’s exactly the kind of ambiguity that is scattered throughout “Optica,” leaving us unsure whether we should be listening intently or just bobbing our heads. Its sunniness creates more of a cruising-with-the-windows-down than a late-night-contemplating-life kind of vibe. However, I’m partially convinced that that’s precisely the aim of the album: to take you back and make you dance.

Shout Out Louds have marched through the doldrums and taken it all in stride. Gone are the days of “Work” and now is the time to vacation. “Optica” is what it sounds like to be the underdog: to have been expected to crash and burn, but instead come out on top. More than that, it’s an example of artists growing beyond their own expectations yet remaining true to themselves. And they’ve done so in such a way that’s sure to land them on an Urban Outfitters playlist very soon.

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