Cosmic Highness ‎– Love Unknown

3 out of 5

Label: Adult Fantasy Records

Produced by: Capt. Tripps

Every Adult Fantasy Records release – from the artwork down through the lyrics – loves to play with a sort of offhand 70s metal / pubrock look and sound, although I suppose I’m misappropriating the year I associate with the sound, since even the label’s catalogue numbers – looking like years, e.g 1981, 1982, etc. – would seem to be in on the game, and mostly cover the 80s.

Johnny Wulf, who’s all over other AFR albums like Christian Mistress and Quayde Lahue, gets the year 1986 for his (mostly) solo outing as Cosmic Highness, and while I’m equally likely incorrectly associating my years-to-music again, ’86 seems about right for these relationship-obsessed synthesizer jams.

It’s all pretty sing-songy normal at a blush, with head-bobby keyboard tunes that sound similar enough to something you’d make up and hum to yourself, and repeated phrases that don’t stretch too far for their imagery or sentiments. And that’s not necessarily the world’s worst thing: it’s well produced, with an upfront, living-room sound to it that sets it apart from most 80s counterparts, and Wulf is a slick composer, as the 8-ish tracks (there’s maybe something we could consider an intro on side B) offer enough distinct elements and choruses to stick, separately in your head. That last bit – and the smart way the LP is both short enough to not overstay its boppity welcome and yet long enough per song to have room to flesh out its ideas – means it easily earns its replays. And upon such repeat visits, you’ll hear more layering to that sing-songiness than first suspected, justifying the list of multiple synths used, and the instrumental that opens up side B becomes a special highlight of smart, song-writing chops.

While seeming like an odd release out on AFR’s mostly rock-obsessed releases, Cosmic Highness earns their place with a good assortment of catch tunes.