M.M. Crone is back this month with their third EP, High Stakes. The synthwave duo hailing from Montreal consists of Margaux Tabary and Phillipe Petit, who have been collaborating since 2018. Their hazy neon sounds evoke our collective dream of the 80s, like a grown-up version of Stranger Things. The EP is quick out of the gate with the titular song “High Stakes,” which boasts skilled songwriting; the chorus has an anthemic quality that stays with you after the first listen. “High Stakes” lures you in with a minimalist arrangement of rolling, sequenced arpeggios, tugging at the heartstrings of anyone who remembers 8 bit video-game music. M.M. Crone’s sound evokes the scrolling cityscapes and retrofuturist palette common to much synthwave, but with a particularly skillful execution of imagined nostalgia.
“Hang Out” and “Horse” are bleaker by comparison, coloured with buzzy synth drones and syncopated dance rhythms. “Hang Out” highlights Petit’s tremulous vocals; I would love to hear a parallel solo effort from Tabary, whose breathy tones recall the disco divas at the vanguard of electronic music. In addition to “High Stakes,” “Deep End” is also a stand-out track. Tabary and Petit’s dual lead vocals evoke Stars’ Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell in the era of Heart: they range between melancholy and deadpan. The chorus expresses a longing for escapism (“Maybe I’ll dive in the deep end / you’ll never find me in these waves,”) while the verse presents dreamlike impressionistic images (“Breath out, white clouds, you’re watching from above.”) Altogether, High Stakes is a satisfying listen that leaves you wanting more, a perfect marriage of earnest lyricism and luxurious retro synths.
Much of Claire’s life has been devoted to thinking and writing about music. A musicologist, singer-songwriter, and poet, she’s interested in intersections and gaps between words and music. She is drawn to eclecticism and genre blending, and is prone to deep dives into sound worlds of albums and artists.