Sunday, July 17, 2016

I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it | The 1975

You know, I'd always been under the impression that The 1975's business model thrives on aesthetic over substance – a shell of flowery imagery wrapped around a big load of nothingness, if you will. And it turns out others felt the same: quotes pulled from critics and #haters flash to the beat in the music video for "The Sound." Comments like "there's no danger in this music at all," "unconvincing emo lyrics," "boring recycled wannabes," and "desperate, shallow, cringe-worthy" ensure that I wasn't alone in this train of thought. But after a coincidental listen to the band's material, I learned that while the glossy sensory overload schtick is employed in full force, superficiality isn't the name of The 1975's game: beneath that Tumblr-certified beauty, layers of late night thoughts and contemplative introspection wait to be dissected.

Their sophomore record, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, is, by and large, a lot to take in. The 71-character title, the staggering number of tracks, the influences from every crevice of the music spectrum, the handful of sprawling five-plus minute songs that exist as high-gloss Instagram filters in musical form... it's just a lot. And an album this hefty is an ample space for the band's members to experiment however they please. Frontman Matt Healy admits the freedom of ambitious experimentation makes the album seem like three in one, which would become an issue if the foursome didn't know what they were doing – but for the most part, they know what they want to accomplish, whether they slide into slick pop-rock soundscapes or take it back to the basics with an acoustic base.

While the tracks that spare the production tools (the most powerful weapons in the band's arsenal) can become dirges at points, Healy becomes the focal point on them, stirring 'the feels' and giving a convincing sense of authenticity ("Nana," "She Lays Down"). But when they lean into their signature sorta synthy, sorta rocky funk on a good number of these tracks, they stick the landing with ease each and every time. Once again, filling sonic spaces with the smoothest production possible a good part of their craft – and on their most proper pop-rock tunes, they can do just that without losing touch with infectious melodies. At these points of the record, though, Healy's voice becomes a whole new demon: one that can hypnotize when dipped in a sea of reverb (most expertly displayed on "Somebody Else") or punch through soundscapes when thrown into electric pop-rock jungles like "The Sound" and "Love Me." (Even lengthy tracks that spare a vocal presence – the aforementioned Instagram filter reincarnate side of The 1975 – are worth note, given the unprecedented detail given to even the slightest details to cultivate a soundscape worth awing at.)

Many of their topics of conversation (fame, religion, sexuality, mortality, drug addiction, love, cultural barriers) could easily branch off into full albums of their own, but this album feels well-rounded and honest – and from a singular point of view, despite being written by all four members. And these songs read as both personal and empathetic; they are often composed in a storytelling fashion, leaving enough malleability for listeners to relate. Perhaps this is the department in which The 1975's following has drummed the band up a fair bit, seeing they tend to spice everyday thoughts with some unorthodox topics of conversation (smoking, sex, cocaine, mental disorders) that are most popular in these viral sensation musicians. This tactic often validates listeners' experiences while also pushing them into a degree of escapism – a sensation I would like to think we aspire to receive from our favorite music.

Against all of the insinuations that The 1975 is punk-leaning, the band is pop through and through. Yes, they've dressed themselves up with janky guitar licks and punchy vocals, but they're a pop-rock outfit at their core. Truth be told, their punk seal of approval is about as confusing as Paramore's nowadays. Their sound is crisp and pop hook-laden, and their lyrics spare angst for a sense of self-awareness and a basic look at the relationship between society and the human psyche – so much like The Neighbourhood or Melanie Martinez, only The 1975's imagery make them Hot Topic material. Even still, the band's appeal is understandable, and what matters most is that this album glows as warmly as the neon sign on its cover.

So my aesthetic over substance assumption? I stand corrected. This band is aesthetic and substance.

I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it is available now under Interscope Records. An exclusive pressing can be found at Target department stores.

1 comment

  1. Great review! I like how you described their music as Instagram filters in musical form, a perfect description in my opinion. My favorite song on this album (and in their whole discography) is easily Somebody Else.


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