So the story goes, Chain Gang of 1974 mastermind Kamtin Mohager wasn't moved to create music until he heard Tears for Fears' classic '80s weeper "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" playing as part of the Real Genius soundtrack. One listen to his project's proper 2011 debut, Wayward Fire, could back up this tale, with more John Hughes soundtrack movie moments than, well, any John Hughes movie. Three years later, Daydream Forever is built on more of the same, with even more attention to hooks and beefed-up production that thickens the pop sheen with a heavy electronic backbone. The songwriting finds Mohager again in a state of hyper-nostalgic new romantic worship that channels heroes like Duran Duran, Simple Minds, Echo & the Bunnymen, and OMD. Production is handled by Isom Innis and Tony Hoffer, whose combined résumé of work with shiny pop acts like Foster the People, M83, and Phoenix can easily be heard on tracks like the huge beat and falsetto chorus of "Witch," the sub-bass throb of "Godless Girl" (which bears uncanny similarities to the dream pop dynamics of M83's similarly titled 2008 cut "Graveyard Girl"), and the attention-grabbing laser-beam synths and disco guitars of leadoff single "Sleepwalking." M83 is the most immediate contemporary reference point for the washed-out orchestration and pulsing programming of Daydream Forever, but Mohager's tunes are far more blatant in their '80s genuflection and pleasant reappropriation. While the songs are all plenty catchy, they're better taken in one at a time, as the entire album tends to blur and grate at the halfway mark. While the jarring minute-or-so interlude of guitar squall that is "Moksha" breaks things up a bit, the second half of Daydream Forever runs out of interesting production tricks and starts to lose its charming retroactivity and feel increasingly plastic and forgettable. Despite its eventual running out of steam, the several strong points of the album make it worth the price of admission, and a must for anyone in an especially strong phase of '80s nostalgia.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas