I am absolutely exhausted of “nostalgia”. The older I get the more I feel that True Detective’s Rust was right—time is a flat circle. Everything that will happen has already happened and part of the tragedy of humanity is our powerlessness to exit the loop. Between sequels, prequels, remakes—we’re doing yearly Star Wars movies now?—and lightwash jeans, the 80s and 90s just can’t seem to die.
Naturally, I was confused when I found myself intrigued by vaporwave, a music genre that uses nostalgia as its life force. Even more confusingly, my very first foray into the genre was through VAPERROR’s Mana Pool—widely understood to be a more accessible work as it uses a trap sound, and is itself in a subgenre of vaporwave called vaportrap. Listening to that record in my friend’s basement sparked in me a need to explore what else vaporwave could be.
Enter Macintosh Plus and their album, Floral Shoppe. The whole album represents vaporwave in a manner that Mana Pool can’t (and doesn’t try to). It explores a more complete sound that’s epitomized by the second track, “リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー” The chopped and screwed Diana Ross sample has become the poster child of vaporwave. The reverb on the percussion, the first notes seemingly looping endlessly, and even the lyrics—it’s all in your head—come together so brilliantly that it’s no surprise that this stand out track has become a sort of introduction to the genre. It’s music that is full of feeling and nostalgia, yet at the same time emotionless and empty.
슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open by 식료품groceries stays true to that contradiction and makes itself home in that space. Largely speaking, albums (even within the vaporwave genre) are made to be enjoyed wherever you are. 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open is meant to replicate the same experience you would have walking around a grocery store—ever been to a new grocery store and not known where anything is simply because you’ve never been there before? This album is somewhat similar, in the sense that a track hardly builds into the other, in fact more often than not it takes a wild departure.
This is such an interesting work that stirred up so many different feelings in me, that I had to share what those feelings were. I listened to this album over and over, jotted down some stream of consciousness notes, realized that this not a 7th grade paper and stream of consciousness notes are not acceptable, went back and revised it to what I hope is at least an enjoyable read.
By the way, I recommend listening to 슈퍼마켓Yes! We’re Open while reading. Or, like all vaporwave albums, enjoy the narrative and take from my piece what you will.
Feels like you are traveling across an orchard of peaches! But an urban one like in a plaza or a square. In a vast indoor space where every noise you make bounces off walls, and the voices of the three other people make it sound like there are hundreds with you
(Earth Tones, Rectangles, and Fake Plants): You stumble into a cafe that has classy yet earthy vibes. Its a corner shop cafe in Portland where an espresso costs $80. Hella whimsical, this is where you find people with Dali mustaches having a grand old time. It’s like a 1930s or 40s Austrian cafe, where the supposed intellectual class chats about social issues or frivolities, but they're in the dead center of a corporate grocery store.
(Parallel Lines, Oscillating Fans, and Public-Access Broadcasting): This is where you enter the slow-mo pastry aisle. Percussion is as thick and decadent as the whipped cream on a strawberry vanilla cake. Layers and layers of that cream are being poured onto the cake out of a bottomless bowl. Hella fruity vibes, mostly strawberry but like pineapple piña colada shit—the little flute on this track is adding that tropical sweetness. Cherries on cherries too, basically like a sensual pastry palace. And then there’s that fade again . . . like you just hit a sugar coma from just witnessing this pastry aisle . . . it’s an ebb and flow, like you’re dipping in and out of experiences . . .
(Parallel Lines, Oscillating Fans, and Public-Access Broadcasting): And suddenly, you’re thrust into a place that’s all about you. The “Achievement” aisle—you see everything you’re proud of, all the struggle that you’ve been through, stacked up like cereal boxes, and everything that has made you who you are. Yet you’re detached from the moment—walking through the aisle, you see yourself, instead of Tony the Tiger, on the front of each box, experiencing important life moments—and it gives you this swelling feeling of pride, like you’re rooting for that person on that cereal box even though deep down you know that person is you. You always want be walking down this aisle because you always want to be
rooting for yourself. The Asian instrumentation here gives the aisle a sense of triumphant tragedy which takes you from your lowest valleys to the highest peak that you haven’t quite summited yet. Absolutely love this song, it’s going to stick with me for some time.
(Hairstyles, Power-Ups, and Magnetic Tape): This aisle is just a fucking mess. We’re talking Kmart after Black Friday. The kids went to town on this one. It’s a jovial kind of mess though, like when kids play in the mud—it’s all in good fun but it’s just one big regret waiting to happen. Actions have consequences and at the end of the day some high schooler working his first job will have to clean up all the condiments that have been squirted around. Yeah, I don’t know why, but this track reminds me of the zany purple ketchup that Heinz released some years back. Yeah, fucking hate this track.
Fade ouuuutttttttt cleaning crew is here.
(Moonlight, Urban Skylines, and Rapid Eye Movement): This song sounds like some angelic Japanese aisle where you get peddled the finest, obscure home treatments and foods. Wooden robotic Japanese nurses are hanging off the wall offering you the finest drugs to be happy as hell. The whole aisle has a dystopian taste to it, as if whatever they give you will fix one thing but give you 50 problems. There are sinister vibes here and there’s nothing accidental about it. This aisle is a facade—and it comes crashing down when you reach the end.
(Lost in the Freezer Section): You come across a lady with a grapefruit stand selling grapefruits in the middle of the store. She’s got a visor on and she’s wearing some green shorts just telling you the history of grapefruits. You listen because she’s amazingly passionate and you love her for it.
(Memories, Regrets, and Wishes): This is the chili aisle, that heavy, heavy chili with some fine tuned spices. The soft percussion is the chili and the melodic guitar/bells are the spices. Rocking track. Mixes an American classic with some Spanish flavor–drums. Reminds me of heavy rock for whatever reason and the guitar is undoubtedly Gypsy Kings.
(Sailboats, Forecasts, and Room Keys): You run into a couple and they are buying eggs. It’s cute because you can see them enjoying each other and you’re a bit jealous because you wish you had something like that. But, you just accept the situation and let yourself be happy for them. The synths are beautiful, but definitely have a somber tone. This track creates a dichotomy where you’re not sure if you’re at your ideal place but you see that someone else is and, for that one moment, it’s enough to see someone else that’s happy.
(Drink Specials, Warm Evenings, and Rooftop Views): You’re eight years old in the grocery store and you find out that you can buy Snickers frozen ice cream bars. All of a sudden, there’s this huge sense of wonder that you can’t help but feel. Your mind has been blown and your head is racing like “How did I not know these things existed? The possibilities are endless, I’m going a million miles a minute right now and I don’t want to stop!” AND when you rode the cart in the parking lot! Feeling the breeze on your face! Knowing you were a kid and just doing kid things because you enjoyed it!
(Palm Leaves, Breezes, and Sunset Gradients): A tropical sounding track. The salmon in this aisle is looking juicy. I actually imagine all the fish in the frozen aisle being replaced by that talking fish tchotchke that people used to hang on the wall that sings “don’t worry, be happy.” There are hundreds of fish just flopping up and down, not actually singing just making the whirring mechanical noise. High notes and progressions ring throughout, but there’s always a somber instrument or note that undercuts everything, giving this song a fabricated feel-good feeling but is really fake or superficial.
(Have a Nice Day): This dude’s voice freaked me out at first. This is a callback to what made vaporwave, vaporwave in the first place—distorted audio samples were an integral part to early vaporwave tracks—which makes it so different than the rest of the album. It comes out very loud and reminds me of when I saw people fighting in public, like in grocery stores, and how much anxiety it would give me.
Finally, the car ride home! Freedom! I never liked going to the grocery store, always thought of it as a chore. This was definitely the best part, the trip back. Getting back to my Gameboy color with Pokémon Blue and the USB light flickering. My parents were fighting, but I was happy as hell to be going and just getting back to my life! Love this song, it makes me feel very optimistic.
Just like a trip to the grocery store, this album is over before you know it. “Aisle 3” will always be my favorite track, but funnily enough “Checkout” (which kinda had me fucked up at first) is a grower for me, and “Bronze-Level Store Loyalty Card” is one of the happiest songs I’ve heard in months.