I had momentary memory lapses where I couldn’t resolve the time period I currently resided in while listening to Portrait, the full-length debut album from Los Angeles-based dance-pop duo Cardiknox (Lonnie Angle and Thomas Dutton). In some places, the music sounds like a throwback to the pop era of MTV’s Total Request Live, not the part with all the boy bands but the part with all the angst and general emo that comes with growing up, minus the fluff. In other places, the music embraces more contemporary electronic beats that better define the ebbs and flows of trying to play catch-up with the rest of the world.
A lot of this is by design. After collaborating on a brief successful stage production in New York City, Angle and Dutton started a new chapter in their partnership by writing and recording together, and the music took off soon afterwards. “All of the pieces felt right in terms of the sounds, melodies, and message,” says Dutton. “It clicked. It was exactly what we were going for.” Angle describes the sound comprising “so many different elements. It’s indie, electronic, epic, cinematic, nostalgic, and even a little eighties-inspired.”
No wonder the many peaks and valleys that fill the album’s thematic and aural landscape. Relationship breakup (“Souvenirs”), youthful rebellion (“Wild Child”), rejection (“Doors”), and family breakup (“Shadowboxing”) are just a few of the many subject matters that Angle and Dutton address throughout the album, but the single overall conclusion that the duo ultimately points you to is the message of being positive and that everything will work out well in the end.
“I want people to walk away from the music feeling hopeful,” explains Angle. The album’s best track “On My Way” (complete with a catchy melody and entirely danceable beat) best exemplifies this uplifting attitude and, ultimately, what music the duo strives to create—pop music that’s enjoyable, yet real.