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Deaton Chris Anthony reconfigures the sound of nostalgia

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What's the sound of Midwestern nostalgia, A twangy folk song, A heartland rock anthem? Not for Deaton Chris Anthony.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHED HEAD")

DEATON CHRIS ANTHONY: (Singing) Korbin showed me how to do it. Franklins stashed under my blanket. There's nothing wrong. No, no, nobody saw it. I'm sorry. We're just some kids starving.

SHAPIRO: His new album "Sid The Kid" finds the electronic producer reminiscing about his childhood in Kansas. Our reviewer, Miguel Perez, took a listen and heard his own millennial youth reflected in the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEATON CHRIS ANTHONY SONG, "SHED HEAD")

MIGUEL PEREZ, BYLINE: The home studio in LA where Deaton Chris Anthony made "Sid The Kid" looks like a pawn shop for old music equipment. There's colorful wires that snake around analog synthesizers and 30-year-old drum machines. A Commodore computer from the '80s sits beside a stack of keyboards. It looks a little haphazard, but this is really a finely tuned time machine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHED HEAD")

ANTHONY: (Singing) Stars on my ceiling. And I keep on falling through my bed. Wake me up Korbin to your Pulsars beat. Turn up a little loud 'til my speakers bleed.

PEREZ: Songs like "Shed Head" take you back to the early 2000s, land of glow in the dark ceiling stars, dial-up internet and Sunday morning cartoons. The album's based on Deaton's own youth, a self-described chubby 10-year-old growing up in Olathe, Kan., who looked up to his big brother and spent his days skating and bowling. His nickname was Sid the Kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T WANNA GO TO SCHOOL")

ANTHONY: (Singing) On my way home from school. I don’t want to take the bus. My head doesn't feel good. But I'd rather walk for miles.

PEREZ: Deaton's take on childhood nostalgia is glitchy and abrasive. A lot of the songs here unspool into this, like, burst of pent-up digital angst. But the music is pretty genreless. It's more stitched together by the millennial ephemera that Deaton has woven into the record - nods to Avril Lavigne, "Dawson's Creek" and "Kids In America." His creativity has earned him collabs with high profile musicians that harness nostalgia in much the same way, like Filipino-British star Beabadoobee, who offers a sweet assist on the song "iScream."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ISCREAM")

BEABADOOBEE: (Singing) This could be forеver. Is that too much to ask? We'll try and make it last one day more.

PEREZ: Despite the high-octane production, Deaton is capable of creating some more sentimental moments. A song about missing his childhood labrador uses a touch of Midwest emo to convey the softer, sadder side of growing up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COLORS MY DOG")

ANTHONY: (Singing) Colors, I know. I’m away from home. You looked outside the yard. And what's missing is me and my guitar.

PEREZ: Even at its most frenetic, Deaton's music feels intimate and intentional. Rather than just rehashing the music of his youth, he's pulled out the textures and experiences from his memories to make something that sounds and feels like growing up in the new millennium.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COLORS MY DOG")

ANTHONY: (Singing) I’m not coming back this time.

SHAPIRO: Deaton Chris Anthony's new album is called "Sid The Kid." Our reviewer, Miguel Perez, is a producer for World Cafe in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.