Speaking of record labels I should be checking in on more often, we come back around to another Artoffact Records release. Artoffact have been a mainstay of this column by virtue of the sheer volume of quality synthpop and experimental music they’ve been steadily pumping out, and I don’t think I’ve ever been less than impressed with anything I’ve picked up from them, least of all this week’s feature Cutting Room Floor, the sophomore release from Wingtips. Not only have they been steadily fine-tuning their brand of retro-meets-modern synth music, they also happen to be hometown heroes, which you should know I always get down with.
Chicago’s own Wingtips is the product of multi-instrumentalists Vincent Segretario and Hannah Avalon, whose 2019 debut Exposure Therapy generated a sizeable amount of commercial and critical success thanks to their whip-smart blend of darkwave and gloomy synthpop that worships at the altar of the greats like The Cure and Depeche Mode. However, on Cutting Room Floor, the duo sought to break down their self-styled brand of “new romantic for post-millennial end times” and distill it down into what makes it a success: brighter melodies, deeper emotions and a much more stripped-down approach than they have been used to in the past. “We always sought to go for the neck with maximalist production, with layers upon layers of sonic output,” says Segretario. “This time, we deliberately deconstructed our sound and tried simplifying things altogether.” The band also sought to bring in more modern influences to expand their sound and move away from the mold of strictly 80’s inspired bands. Borrowing in as much from Tears for Fears and Soft Cell as Nine Inch Nails, CHVRCHES and HEALTH, Cutting Room Floor showcases the best of what the band can do at their core, but also a snapshot of where they are right now and who they are as people, not just their retro influences. The expansion of their sound also bleeds into the lyrical themes of the album, which blend into the titular idea of leaving behind the parts of oneself that are not worth keeping and slowly becoming the best version of yourself you can be.
Cutting Room Floor immediately strikes me as an album that is influenced by a lot of hurt and anger. The songs themselves are upbeat and poppy, as you would expect, but the strong vocal delivery and clever lyrics shared by the duo speak to a lot of betrayal and personal hardship. It’s an instantly relatable story, and one that makes it apparent why the band felt the need to cut away aspects of their life and show a more mature, refined version of themselves. Segretario takes the brunt of the vocals, and his clear delivery shines through, cutting through the mix and going straight to the heart (although, for my money, my favorite moments on this album are when the duo’s voices mix and harmonize). I have to imagine that the way everything, not just the vocals, sit so well and are so clear is because of the band’s decision to keep their songwriting focused on the essentials. It was a very smart choice, because the little melodies and guitar lines that pop up in the background would totally be lost if there were layers and layers of synths and samples; instead, these little pieces are some of my favorite details of Cutting Room Floor. Every song on here has its place and has a life of its own; there is no fluff or filler, and nor should there be.
I really hope that Wingtips continues down the path that they have started for themselves. On Cutting Room Floor, they have created a blend of sounds that definitely leaves the 80’s influences apparent, but also showcases their unique talents and a level of honesty that makes good pop songs great. The smartest move for them is to keep moving forward; no disrespect, but 80’s inspired synthpop bands are a dime a dozen. Cutting Room Floor shows that Wingtips are one-of-a-kind.