Chicago based quartet French Police follows in the tradition of 80’s new wave and post punk. Their new release, Haunted Castle sees them upgrading and refining their style from their self-titled debut in 2019. Their sound has a hazy and chilling vibe to it, like a cold gust of wind in a cloudy afternoon. These songs place them neatly in the subcategories of goth and dark wave. Somber tones and heavy reverb glide seamlessly through the halls of this haunted castle, where gray and white hues contrast and intertwine like in a classic noir film. Their haunting hooks and melodies that can urge you dance while you reminisce on lost memories from decades ago. Memories you didn’t even know you had.
This record may give you a strong blast to the past, but I see it as a completely modern take on the genre. Where bands like Depeche Mode and New Order give off a faded and blurred vibe, French Police’s own take looks clearer in high definition. Perhaps it comes from the use of modern recording techniques, but instinct tells me that it’s due to the choice in aesthetics. The most noticeable being frontman Brian Flores’ deep baritone that resounds well with the icy guitar tones along with the hall-wide reverb. It perfectly captures the spirit of their predecessors while giving it their own fresh spin.
Highlights are opener “En la Noche” with its hazy textures and glittering guitars. “Mission” hearkens back to 80’s goth with its wailing synths and punchy drums. I find “Suchi and Sex” to be the quirkiest track in the album. It’s melancholy wrapped in a great hook. The perfect way to dance away your sadness, perhaps even alleviate it in the process.
I especially appreciate how minimally constructed these songs are compared to others in the post-punk genre. Elements like the rhythm section, backing synths and guitars occupy just enough of the mix to give plenty of space for the vocals to stretch itself. This is especially true in single “Dance With Me”, with its clever use of negative space and “Voices” with its muted, almost subdued delivery. Both of these songs along with others in the record feel hollow at its core, which is perfect for the emotions it’s trying to convey. It amplifies the feeling of loneliness and emptiness while sounding crisp and catchy at the same time. For fans of darker indie rock, French Police is not one to miss.