2020's here, and so far, it doesn't feel any less apocalyptic than 2019. The worst Star Wars in two decades has made more money than Greta Gerwig's Little Women (perfect) and Tom Hooper's Cats (transcends "good" and "bad") combined. LA's in flames, it's getting hot. Kanye West is blonde and gone. There's also the encroachment of the actual apocalypse, which I don't want to make light of, but that is not my beat, and you do not want me to try and make it my beat.
In better news (if you choose, as I do, to generously call this "news"), we're getting another album from hometown hero Vektroid, whose 2011 record Floral Shoppe helped put vaporwave on the map at the turn of the last decade. For the uninitiated: "vaporwave" is among the 2010s-iest of 2010s trends, a hugely popular aesthetic subgenre that flourished on Tumblr before collapsing beneath the demands of its anti-commercial origins.
It combines the blown-out neon of the '90s and '00s with the smooth, droning pleasures of sax-heavy elevator music. It's essentially nostalgia stew, with a vaguely punk ethos and almost-unclassifiable archness—Luxury Elite, a prolific vaporwave producer, once described it as follows: "Imagine for a moment, if you will, a parallel universe in which Tom Cruise's 1988 hit Cocktail was actually a gritty noir, full of smoke-filled scenes and low-lit bars and brutalist executive suites." The intentional falseness almost laps itself and becomes its own weird kind of pathos. If you're looking for a corollary in contemporary pop, think Charli XCX collaborator A.G. Cook (and, by extension, his collective PC Music) on downers instead of uppers.
When Vektroid, a Portland-based electronic musician born in Washington State, released Floral Shoppe under the name Macintosh Plus in 2011, critical reception was split. Some found it revelatory, others found its often-10-minute-tracks ponderous. Still, for its innovative use of found sound and early adoption of vaporwave's chilly visual hallmarks, it's earned a sustained spot on the radar of cultural critics. A 2019 Pitchfork retrospective called it a "masterpiece" that "belongs to an entire generation," a "one-of-a-kind depiction of anxiety and crisis rendered through waves of numbness that range from deeply unsettling to artificially ecstatic," and I bet it turns up in not a few university courses on 2010s internet culture.
So it's no mistake that a certain segment of Twitter caught fire when this tweet hit The Feeds a couple weeks ago:
I wrote another Macintosh Plus album.— Vektroid (@Vektroid) December 20, 2019
Following the announcement, Vektroid (whose real name is Ramona Amanda Xavier) dropped a glorious, abrasive 12-minute preview called "Sick & Panic," which you can pre-order on vinyl here. Listen to the full preview below.