Back in 2019, I mentioned the name Memorex Memories several times. The project’s Pictures of Purple Skies came to me at a time in my life that involved heavy travel and was the perfect soundtrack to the despondency that comes with that and which vapor/synth wave channel so well. So when The Life of Riley was released, I was ecstatic. But little did I know that Riley (as we are heretofore calling the album in this post) was something much different than Pictures of Purple Skies, a brighter album yes but one which didn’t simply turn the light on higher but also changed the hues and palette in which this light shone.
My first inkling that this album was going to be something different was when I read the album’s Bandcamp description. In it, the man behind the album described changing mind-sets and life circumstances, bringing about an album that was all about celebrating mental improvement, stability, and health. It was a touching story (which I will include parts of below for your perusal) but it’s even more touching how much of this story comes across in the music itself. Pictures of Purple Skies had this underlying melancholy that often accompanies any iteration of chiller synthwave, not to mention vaporwave, a genre wholly founded on the feeling of a faint sort of discontent, post-modern and unlocatable in nature.
In contrast, Riley processes these sounds and vibes and translates them not into a languishing sort of introspection but to a vibrant, stolid sort of expectation and ease. The main, self-titled track of the album veritably buzzes with these sensations, moods, and perspectives. The main melody on it, which can be counted as the main melody of the album, feels like the cover art: bright, intimate, expansive, and peaceful, all the same time. The beat which accompanies this main melody and runs through the entire track embellishes it with an excuberance, a bouncy joie de vivre that is incredibly hard to resist. In short, the track puts a damn wide smile on your face.
Other parts of the album are slightly more mellow or tuned down, like “Counting Rain Drops”, but these valleys of energies are quickly restored to new summits of bright outlook. All in all, this makes Riley hit differently than almost any other album I’ve heard in the genres (with exception of other bright synthwave records, like Micronode‘s underrated work). It’s simply a joy to listen to, channeling the uplifting story of Sean Harte (AKA Memorex Memories) into a singularly optimistic and powerful piece of music in a genre where darkness and gloom reign way too often. Read on below for pieces of that story and don’t forge to head on over to Bandcamp and grab the album. I’ll thank you for it.
One day I was out walking with one of the guys under my care. Seemingly out of nowhere he began to list off some of the things that he was grateful for in life. After completing this incredibly wholesome list He followed it up by saying “I’m living the life of Riley”. I was unfamiliar with this phrase and asked him what he meant. He replied “I’m carefree, Everything is good”. It was Autumn at the time and we happened to be walking down a park pathway. The sky at this moment was indescribable, so many different shades of purple and orange that where backed by huge opposing clouds. Inspired by my friends optimism, I decided to take a photo. I’m still not exactly sure what happened. But in that instant I became very reflective. I began thinking about my pursuit of personal growth over the years, comparing how I felt in that moment versus how I had felt at almost any other time in my life. I felt truly contented.
This mood stayed with me for the remainder of the evening. On my walk home my mind was buzzing. I became overwhelmed with images of Super 8, dusk drenched wheat fields and saturated flowers in the wind. I began thinking about the fleeting moments in my life where I felt equally contented. Sitting beneath the pine tree in my parents backyard during the summertime. Watching the breeze zip through the grass as the sun goes down and the sky fades to dusk. Something had clicked and I knew I wanted to soundtrack that moment.
I got home from work, dumped my shit and began writing what would become the first track on my 2nd album “Under The Tree”
In a nutshell. That’s what this album is about. To quote The Shawshank Redemption “I crawled through 500 yards of shit and came out clean on the other side”. That concept may seem somewhat self indulgent and to a certain extent I would say that’s accurate. But I feel that this album is more than that. I receive so many truly breathtaking messages from so many beautiful people on a daily basis. They share their trepidation and tribulations as well as their optimisms and how my music has in some way alleviated their stresses or enhanced the vibe of a pleasant evening. Even If I had the most expansive vocabulary on the planet, I doubt I could express how surreal and truly overwhelming that is to hear. I can never prepare for it. I always feel so privileged that people feel comfortable enough to confide so deeply.
So in many ways, this album is my way of returning the favour to the people who have supported me. I’ve been wading in a river of shit for many years and If it weren’t for my fans I doubt I’d be feeling so clean. These people have provided a platform for my outlet and the reception for which leaves me speechless. I often engage in discussions with family, friends and fans about mental health. I understand the physicality of depression and anxiety all too well. But I feel that too often, particularly with the cynicism of the Internet. You only hear about the struggle and never the resolve. From my perspective the last thing you want to hear when you’re in an emotionally acute state is how futile any affirmative action put towards change is. No one likes to feel trapped. I’ve been there and it fucking sucks! We all need to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel and if I can use what little influence I have to express that to the people who need to hear it. You better believe I’m going to try.
It will get easier.
It does get better.
My head is clear, my heart is full and everyday I’m grateful I never threw in the towel. I’m living The Life Of Riley – “A carefree existence”