The Midnight is a Los Angeles-based synthwave duo, composed of Tyler Lyle and Tim McEwan. Lyle is a singer-songwriter with Southern roots planted in Atlanta, and McEwan is an instrumentalist and producer from the UK and Denmark. The Midnight infuses nostalgic soundscapes with dreamy synthesizers and their signature saxophone sound, transporting listeners into another realm. Lyle and McEwan build new worlds with every album, composing intricate compositions, penning poetic thought-provoking lyrics, and embracing a sense of escapism with the development of neon ‘80s aesthetic visuals. There is an ethos that The Midnight utilizes to summarize the style of music they aim to create:
“There is a Japanese term: Mono no aware. It means basically, the sad beauty of seeing time pass – the aching awareness of impermanence. These are the days that we will return to one day in the future only in memories.”
The Midnight explores many universal themes throughout their discography. The band’s eclectic collection includes their debut EP Days of Thunder (2014), first full-length album Endless Summer (2016), follow up Nocturnal EP (2017), and sophomore album Kids (2018). Now they are back with their third full-length Monsters, which released on July 10 via Counter Records. This album picks up the narrative from where Kids left off. Kids revolved around the theme of childhood as the songs dug deep into the bittersweet nature of good memories long passed. This time, Monsters conceptually explores the transitional period in life before adulthood, and the nostalgia surrounding the years of adolescence. A time capsule is brilliantly embodied in the form of sentimental song titles and Aaron Campbell’s neon artwork, adorned with images of video game consoles, comic books, iconic movie posters, and pizza boxes.
The opening track “1991 (intro)” kicks off with the birth of the internet; featuring the audio of the computer powering up and the loud clacking of keys on a keyboard, followed by that infamous sound of a dial-up tone. This introduction easily connects to the first song “America Online” which provides some deep house vibes, accompanied by Lyle’s vocoded lyrics and establishes the theme of the LP: “Through the wires to the heart, phantom fingers fumble in the dark. / I thought I did, I felt a spark. / Are we all one beating heart?”
Watch the lyric video for “America Online” here:
“Dance With Somebody” is a synth-driven dance track that encourages listeners to be a little more footloose and take some risks in life. “Seventeen” and “Dream Away” are reflective slow-bangers, before “The Search for Ecco” offers the first interlude of the album. The instrumental track presents a throwback to the video game “Ecco the Dolphin” and showcases McEwin’s production skills with a captivating display of soothing ambiance. “Prom Night” perfectly encompasses that ‘80s high school coming of age vibe and feels like a ballad that rightfully belongs in the ending credits of a John Hughes film, like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. The gloomy and introspective “Fire In The Sky” stands out with its contemporary sound, the inclusion of EDM trap beats, and strong correlation with “Deep Blue.”
The title track “Monsters” is a shining duet that features a guest appearance from Leila Broussard of Jupiter Winter. There is even a reference to Frankenstein’s monster to narrate the emotional limbs sewn together from a past relationship and the eventual demise of a love that didn’t work out: “I signed the dotted line, that tethered yours to mine. / No anesthetic for hearts electric. / We could’ve been fireflies, but that fire died.”
“Helvetica” is a warped interlude filled with variations in pitch and tempo, an instrumental representation of teenage years with its continuous changes and the unpredictability of this time in life. “Brooklyn” is a beautiful love song, saturated with idyllic songwriting, descriptive scenery, and a nostalgic melody, showcasing the power of emotive storytelling: “Floating empire, held up by fraying wire. / And I will cover you in winter, like a blanket by the fire. / When the rent’s too high, we’ll just buy cheaper wine. / Hang on to see if whether, constellations hold together or not.”Pure escapism can be found with “Deep Blue”, a brooding highlight of Monsters and one of the strongest compositions ever written by The Midnight. The song combines surreal dream pop, evocative lyricism, and a special guest feature in the form of a saxophone-lead chorus: “I wasn’t after forever, just for whatever. / I was one of the dark hearts, thought that they’d never truly be opened. / But this is an explosion, of star crossed and blood rushed. / And hair tossed and cheeks flushed. / And weeks lost. / I wasn’t looking for you.”
Watch the lyric video for “Deep Blue” here:
“Night Skies” is a classic The Midnight “cruising through the rainy streets at night while contemplating lost love” type track. This dark song feels reminiscent of the works from Nocturnal, glimmering with powerful intensity and dynamic lyrics: “One thousand miles an hour, how does it feel? / A million horsepower, no steering wheel. / Running off the shoulder, asleep on the stage. / Your ship is sinking, let me climb aboard.”
“City Dreams (interlude)” is the final interlude before reaching the conclusion of the LP. The instrumentals comprise a transcendent atmosphere, incorporating pieces of “Seventeen” and effortlessly transitioning into the soft closer. “Last Train” is the definition of The Midnight’s opus, as it fully encompasses the concept of Mono no aware and brings the album to an ethereal conclusion: “There is a song singin’ in the dark. / Don’t get too close or it’ll tear you apart. / There is a reason for every season of the heart. / There is a song singin’ in the fire. / Don’t get too close, it cuts like a wire. / There is a reason for every season of desire.” As the composition progresses, the lyrics return full circle as there is a callback to “America Online”, answering the prompt with a message of unity and connection, until the last note fades: “Half in light and half in dark, is where we start. / Half in light and half in dark, is where we are. / We are one beating heart.”The Midnight pushes the boundaries with the compositions of Monsters, showcasing the duo’s evolution as they’ve managed to develop their sound by incorporating a myriad of new sonic elements – components of trap, lo-fi, New Age – and revamping the synthwave genre. Lyle and McEwin had a specific vision in mind for this album, and they fulfilled the goals they aspired to accomplish, fueled by their ambition to explore the themes of lost love, young passion, and navigating the teenage years. Monsters features a slight shift in sound, yet The Midnight’s trademark essence still lingers: a synthwave melody hanging in the background, Tim’s compelling soundscapes, the emotion in Tyler’s wistful voice, and sentimental subject matter. The Midnight have crafted a synthwave gem that induces a pure nostalgic experience and fully immerses you into a neon retro dreamscape.
Standout tracks: America Online, Seventeen, Fire In The Sky, Monsters, Brooklyn
My favorite tracks: Deep Blue, Night Skies, Last Train