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Sixteen candles

Seattle band Trick Candles captures a certain vision of the ‘80s in blissfully catchy fashion

The music of Trick Candles could fit in any John Hughes movie. Photo credit: Monmar Photography

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It's a curious trait we have of striving to summarize eras in easily quantifiable terms, regardless of whether or not those designations hold up to scrutiny. An easy place to look for this behavior is in the repeated, exhausting attempts to define generations -- what it means to be a millennial, versus being a Gen-Xer or baby boomer, for instance -- which is typically decided in the most unscientific terms by people who've coined a catchy phrase. In other areas, it's fascinating to examine what styles of music people choose to apply to an entire decade. Movies have been largely successful in establishing that, if you lived in the ‘60s, you were likely to hear "Gimme Shelter," "Fortunate Son," and "For What It's Worth" several times throughout the course of any given day. In the ‘70s, of course, all everyone listened to was disco, and so forth.

When it comes to the ‘80s, one view of that decade in music suggests that the world was taken with swooning, synth-heavy New Wave. In this case, it may be possible to trace that perception directly to one person: John Hughes. Hughes' indelible run of ‘80s movies established him, somewhat unexpectedly, as the leading voice in the depictions of teenagers on film, and his soundtracks were packed with hip cuts from the likes of the Smiths, Oingo Boingo, Simple Minds, the Dream Academy, New Order, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, among many others. Seattle synth-pop outfit Trick Candles explicitly draws on the sounds of the ‘80s, but especially on the moods and tones of John Hughes' soundtracks. It's nearly impossible to listen to their music without picturing Moly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, or Corey Haim dancing along.

Trick Candles' 2019 EP Pretend We're Alone is made up of five almost perversely catchy odes to an almost mythical sound. Much in the same way that Stranger Things is not so much a homage to the actual ‘80s, but to the ‘80s as represented on film, Trick Candles presents a king of greatest hits mashup between acts like Talking Heads, Tears For Fears, When in Rome, Spandau Ballet, and other melodramatic practitioners of New Wave. The dual, boy-girl vocals of Robbie Luna and Prisilla Ray is reminiscent of the he-said-she-said duets of the Human League. Unlike some other bands that reach for nostalgia, Trick Candles are able to not only faithfully recreate the specific sounds and tics of the era they're replicating, but to craft finely tuned ear worms that would stand up to any of the radio hits from back then.

The music of Pretend We're Alone is both overwhelmingly upbeat and deeply heartfelt, hitting that sweet spot of pop music's ability to get feet moving and tears flowing. While Trick Candles may never be able to escape a certain feeling of kitsch inherent in paying such loving homage to a foregone style, their songs overcome any sense of guilty pleasure. This is pure joy, lifted aloft on gales of blissful synth. This is music for the wallflowers who daydreamed about kissing the person of their dreams over the flaming candles of their sweet sixteen birthday cake.

TRICK CANDLES, w/ Conducted by Forget Me Not, WolfRabbit, 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, Cascadia Brewing Co., 211 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, $5-$10, 360.943.2337,


Lonesome Leash is the work of Walt McClements, and it's a fascinating case study in how much more there is to explore in the arena of the one-man band. While McClement's main instrument is the accordion, he utilizes loop pedals and other instruments to craft dizzying soundscapes. Those who might be immediately turned off by the notion of an accordion fronting a pop band will be blown away by Lonesome Leash's clever repurposing of the instrument, using it almost like a programmed keyboard to establish melodies and build tension. This is really something to see.

LONESOME LEASH, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 25, all ages, Cascadia Brewing Co., 211 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, $5-$10, 360.943.2337,

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