The 1975
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Monday, May 25, 2020

Review: Notes on a Conditional Form • The 1975

As the ringleader of The 1975, Matty Healy knows his way around a song: The band has melded pop and rock into songs with unbelievable emotional intelligence on three oversized albums, each with an increasing probability of being deemed a modern classic. Healy is well aware of his band’s advanced capabilities – and unfortunately, much like the class valedictorian who spent his life coddled with affection, he is probably too smug for his own good. Sometimes talking just to hear his own voice, it seems, he has managed to get mouthy often enough to merit "A look back at the wankiest stuff Matty Healy has ever said" list to be published. And it would be much easier to become legitimately angry with him if The 1975 consistently produced albums like Notes on a Conditional Form.

Though its existence was inferred before its predecessor, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, was even released in 2018, Notes on a Conditional Form had its release date kicked around for well over a year, with new songs dropped like a breadcrumb trail to an unknown destination. Within the framework of the overdue 80-minute (!!!) vision, it becomes evident that The 1975 is just as disconnected as the record’s many previews suggested. Climate change activist Greta Thunberg recites a chilling five-minute monologue as the record's prelude, priming audiences for the hard rock racket of "People," a wake-up call to give a damn about themselves and the world around them. What follows the false bellwethers, however, is much less important: Over an hour of self-indulgence that is rarely odious but often unremarkable.

Whereas previous records from The 1975 resonated mania, frustration, and devastation with uncanny precision, Notes on a Conditional Form is frustratingly apathetic and linear. Ambient dance beats – which were implemented with more purpose on A Brief Inquiry but are nearly abused here – clutter up half the record, bleeding into the indiscernible mid-tempo ho-hums about tucking up an erection into a waistband and strained relationships. Three-quarters through the chore, we finally reach the oasis: “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know),” a pornographic pop-rock fever dream. Magnified in reverb, Healy shouts about sex appeal over the band’s brightest groove and overshadows the other tracks’ indifference. It embodies everything this record so sorely lacks: Convincing sincerity and a palpable pulse. 

Notes on a Conditional Form is available now under Dirty Hit and Interscope Records.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Favorite Songs of 2018 (Part Four)

Happy holidays and m(ariah)erry C(arey)hristmas, everyone. It is not only time for us all to get holly, jolly, merry, and bright, but also time for us to compile all of the tracks that made this year a bit more enjoyable. For reference, one musical act is allowed to have only one track on the countdown. Below is the fourth and final set of songs in the countdown; click the links to see part onepart two, and part three.

10. "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" by The 1975

"It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)," the track that Matty Healy described to Billboard as "the big heroin one" from The 1975's third record, is just that: Packed with a glossy guitar, a children's choir, and an effortless melody, the love letter to the drug is an instant essential in the band's discography. It exudes a strange feeling of sentiment, optimism, and relief in hindsight, though, knowing Healy is clean from heroin as of the album's release.

9. "Make Me Feel" by Janelle Monáe

The sexiest song of 2018 came from the least likely competitor: The once sexually-devoid Janelle Monáe made a splash with her pansexuality... and released the explosive track to confess her existence as a sexual being. “Make Me Feel” capitalizes on Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter’s disjointed, staccato songwriting structures, perhaps better than any song ever has before. And of course, the Prince sample certainly didn’t hurt this song’s already strong case.

8. "September Fades" by Ralph

From the bubbling synths to the vocal swoops and soars, everything about "September Fades" is effortlessly smooth. Ralph's voice runs like fingers across velvet as she laments on falling out of love while her lover is none the wiser: "September fades, but you stay the same. Evergreen. When I'm cold, watch it snow. But you never leave," she sings. The production feels both vintage and current, hitting the right balance of today's synthpop and yesterday's disco. (Plus, if this track doesn't make you want to dance in a vintage suit and a pair of heels behind the closed curtain of a cheap motel, nothing will. What a serve.)

7. "Doesn't Matter" by Christine and the Queens

When singing in English, Christine and the Queens carries herself with a certain bluntness. “If I believe in God, and if God does exist, it doesn’t matter, does it?” she sings over gurgling bass surges and sharp drum kicks on “Doesn’t Matter.” Her instrumentation bends and warps under its own heat, feeling much more human and emotive than the sharp, polished beats of Chris' earlier work. It counters a strong melody without overpowering her double-tracked vocals, resulting in a career redefining moment.

6. "No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande’s first release since a suicide bombing at the Manchester stop on her Dangerous Woman Tour took the lives of over 20 people, "No Tears Left to Cry" is stained with grief but is fueled on optimism: Sleek, disorientating production dances below Grande's pleading – but not showy – vocal melody as she promises to put her grieving period to bed. It’s not only a new career high for Grande, but also the forward-thinking pure pop track that otherwise abysmal Top 40 needed and deserved this year. (And yes, this deserved to be her first number one. Thank u, next.)

5. "Mariners Apartment Complex" by Lana Del Rey

With every album, Lana Del Rey somehow transforms into something a bit more alluring than her last reincarnation. As the introductory track to her upcoming album, "Mariners Apartment Complex" takes her back to the acoustic pop-rock of Ultraviolence – and it marks her most carefree track since... forever. She and super-producer Jack Antonoff craft a beautiful acoustic soundtrack to match her peace. It exudes what a good time it is to be alive for Lana Del Rey – and if she's living her best life, then so are we.

4. "The End of Love" by Florence + The Machine

Whereas Florence + the Machine’s previous albums took the form of deep, quick gasps, their fourth studio record is a calming exhale. As it nears its end, the record encounters its most awestruck moment: "The End of Love," a nearly five-minute story that touches on her struggles with her grandmother's suicide. Never have Florence Welch's foghorn vocals been so exposed as they are here: "We were reaching in the dark that summer in New York. And it was so far to fall, but it didn't hurt at all. Let it wash away, wash away," she wails into an abyss, with only piano making footprints below her.

3. "Slow Burn" by Kacey Musgraves

On tracks like "Slow Burn," Kacey Musgraves proves she is among the best at bottling small town sentiment at the tap. Born in the desolate Golden, Texas, and raised in a nearby town, Musgraves pens this autobiographical ode to carelessness, to going nowhere fast in a town where piercing your nose outrages grandma. In a world of commercialized, prepackaged country made for midwestern radio consumption, "Slow Burn" is country done right – its appeal transcends genre by following its creator's lead, not trying to do anything but exist in the moment.

2. "Fallingwater" by Maggie Rogers

After a breakthrough track like the low-maintenance "Alaska," Maggie Rogers didn’t seem like the type to release an anthem... until she released one encapsulated in a somewhat nonchalant pop shell. "Fallingwater" is a captivating track that flows like a river over a rocky terrain – a smooth appearance in its overtones, with a grainy floor underneath. Its beautiful stonewashed production runs against a persistent drumbeat and Rogers' matured vocals, resulting an organic track that washes over listeners and pulls them into its current.

1. "Lately" by Wet

The most stunning track in Wet’s discography also happens to be the most captivating track of the year. "Lately" turns a defeated energy into a triumphant realization: "I’ve been bending over backwards just to make you feel like you’re wanted. But what have you done for me lately?" sings frontwoman Kelly Zutrau, refusing to let her own energy be expended only for somebody else's stability without anything in return. The track unfolds into a beautiful reclamation of her well-being as her fragile notes cycle between highs and lows with grace over an immersive soundtrack that is quintessential Wet.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships | The 1975

Since the band’s inception, The 1975 have agreed to operate on a evolutionary and progressive definition of a rock band, even if that meant they would be perceived as four blokes with guitars who existed only to appeal to counterculture teenagers on the Internet... at first, at least. Atop a basis of guitars and the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll lifestyle, the band’s sound is a frantic fever dream. Their sophomore record, I love it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful but so unaware of it, is unstructured, but it listens like a glorious ‘80s titan – strong melodies, hazy vocal production, and analog synths galore. A much more adventurous endeavor than the band’s debut, I like it when you sleep is the record that forced critics to merge into The 1975’s lane and ride along at the band’s speed.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the band’s third full-length and second hugely-titled record, doesn’t change a thing for the band while they continue to change everything. The 1975 are still disjointed and indecisive, jumping between jazz, rock, pop, and dance across 15 tracks. But they lean into every whim, very much committed to seeing each one through its four-or-so minutes of run time before abandoning it for the next. And now, they make music knowing damn well the time and place in which they exist, recreating what it means to be an Internet era band – a label that unflattering and not to be taken seriously, until its maiden acts like The 1975 and Lana Del Rey released material strong enough to validate it.

In an era of absolute absurdity, The 1975 examine Millennial culture and the web's effects on modern society's existence. The record's mission statement, "The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme," takes humanity out of the equation altogether. The integral interlude contains a Siri-narrated narrative about SnowflakeSmasher86, a lonely man who fell in love with the internet, as if it was his only friend. When he dies, his life is summed up in one sentence: "You can look at his Facebook." The robo-poem acts as the antithesis to the record's lead single; "Give Yourself a Try" rears against the web-obsessed youth that brought the band to fame as Healy mutters, "The only apparatus required for happiness is your pain and fucking going outside." A frenetic guitar buzzes behind him, and oftentimes, it overpowers him to a point of listeners' despair.

Healy takes only one moment to have some fun, on the infectious, Auto-Tuned dance cut "TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME." Aside from it, he is consumed with culture, youth, and his own recovery. "Love It If We Made It" opens with a blunt shout: "We're fucking in a car, shooting heroin, saying controversial things just for the hell of it." The track is built upon a sarcastic foundation, but it expands into further shouts of this sensationalist society's harsh realities, each one capped with the same ending: "Modernity has failed us." And on SoundCloud rap ode "I Like America & America Likes Me," an Auto-Tuned Healy cries, "Would you please listen?" The outsider's perspective to American culture is just as potent as an insider's plea against gun culture, even if it is rooted in a sound that is currently wreaking havoc on popular music in America.

Frontman Matty Healy’s drug addiction has always been a thematic cornerstone for the band: “Chocolate” is a façade for weed smoking, and “UGH!” is a cocaine confessional on its face. But not until this album cycle had the big H come up: In interviews for A Brief Inquiry, his use of heroin is a cornerstone but his current status of sobriety is relatively mute. "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)," the track Healy described to Billboard as "the big heroin one," is just that: Packed with a glossy guitar, a children's choir, and an effortless melody, the love letter to the drug is an instant essential in the band's discography. It exudes a strange feeling of sentiment in hindsight, knowing Healy is, in fact, clean from heroin as of the album's release.

A smaller heroin one can be found in "Surrounded by Heads and Bodies," an acoustic track about a woman whom Healy met in rehab. It can found in the album's soppy, nostalgic back-half, when jazz and vintage rock take the album to an ambient dirge. The soft keys and slick vocal belts of "I Couldn't Be More In Love" transport the album back three or four decades, before closer "I Always Want to Die (Sometimes)" digs its heels directly into '90s adult contemporary rock music – known to younger members of the Millennial generation as dad music. Guitars sweep away the incredibly huge track, which is a close cousin to tracks from the Goo Goo Dolls and Oasis, two bands that have been named-dropped in reference to "I Always Want to Die."

There isn't a band more qualified than The 1975, a band born, raised, and sustained on social media platforms, to make a record like A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The band sets out to prove that those of us 20-somethings who don't remember life without even a primal version of the computer – who now find friends and partners, work, and communicate primarily through wireless technologies – have grown old enough to understand the consequences of the technology we've grown up alongside. Today, we live in a society into which older generations had to be retrofitted: Generation X, issued a smartphone but without the instruction to operate it, and the Baby Boomers and beyond, generally considered defunct and left to maintain what was left of their normalcy.

Tech giants have shaped our individual realities much more than older generations realize; data mining, election meddling, and news radicalizing are happening below Generation X's radar as they fumble through Facebook to share a weird combination of false political propaganda, family photographs, and crock pot recipes. It's overwhelming to be aware that history is being rewritten at the hands of technology on which daily functions are held hostage, and A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships has been a towering lightning pole for Healy's anxiousness, surely amplified without the crutch of his addiction to numb it, to strike every few moments over the past two years.

The record is lopsided from every angle, and because many of the somber tracks listen like stopgaps between the record's bigger moments, the record's best cuts tower high over its worst. But at the very least, it has sparked grander conversation about technology, the generational knowledge gap, self-esteem, addiction, culture, and stability, to name a few. There's something to be said about a band that has become critical of the very platform that sustains it – and a band that can act as sophisticated champions of a generation that is used to being stomped on. As A Brief Inquiry explores, there are weaknesses in this generation, and there are probably plenty more to discover as we age. But more importantly, the record proves there's more hope and power than weakness to be found in the future.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is available now under Dirty Hit and Interscope Records.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

50 Favorite Songs of 2016 (Part Five)

10. "Winterbreak" by Muna

Self-proclaimed dark pop girl band Muna is one of my latest but most promising discoveries of the year. With "Winterbreak," these three young women deliver a dreamy track that is equal parts electronic and organic, blending the hums of guitars with watery, synthesized layers of vocals. Despite a clear desperation behind the track's lyrics, lead vocalist Katie Gavin brings a level of cool serenity to the track, insinuating the discovery of comfort in the on-again, off-again cycle of an unsteady relationship.

9. "Tilted" by Christine and the Queens

Technically speaking, a French version of "Titled" was originally released in 2014, followed by an English-French hybrid dub late last year, but you know, it's my list and I can do as I wish. This track's hypnotizing nature is astonishing, considering its true simplicity: one constant electronic drumbeat, intermittent sputters of a few synthesizer lines, and Christine's sturdy vocals are all that is needed to spark the magic here. Although being pieced together from three different tracks and open to interpretation, the track's lyrics seem coherent, potentially acting as a misunderstood dedication to productivity, creativity, and her fans.

8. "Love is Blind" by Låpsley

More often than not, Låpsley shoots for minimalism to admirable results. "Love is Blind," however, offers enough competition in the soundscape for her to really let loose with that heavyweight voice of hers, but not enough that she is overshadowed; her voice projects as far as the ear can hear at the peak of the pre-chorus before the chorus' melody line forces it into gracious dips and turns, as if matching the layout of winding country road, over sweeping synths and a subtle, twinkling harp.

7. "Formation" by Beyoncé

This year, we watched Beyoncé transform from an entertainer to an advocate before our very eyes, and it all started with "Formation." While it's hard to notice at surface level, the track's lyrics bear enough symbolism regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and Beyoncé's personal and marital struggles that they can be (and have been) dissected in a collegiate-level literature class. Its thrives on heavy bass and utmost confidence, spiraling into a new, unexpected direction at every separate section of the track.

6. "Touch" by Shura

Yes, I know that this song is technically two years old at this point, but to my defense, it was re-released this year and was included on Shura's debut record this year. While Nothing's Real is great in its entirety, "Touch" is far too infectious not to be considered for this list. One of the most organic-sounding electronic songs of recent history, the track builds upon into a trance slowly but surely; the tickled synth line and sampled ambiance that draw listeners in and initially keep the track in line get swept away as wispy vocals and warm synths blur it into a fuzzy dream.

5. "Into You" by Ariana Grande

Let's get real: this thing is the banger to end all bangers. Fueled on jagged synths, double-tracked vocals, and sex appeal, it's a supercharged punch to the senses that serves as the pinnacle of the theme on which Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman is based: her self-serving sexual liberation. And more importantly, through this track, she further proves that she can still showcase her showstopping vocals while having a blast in a super-produced pop environment courtesy of Max Martin and his protégé, Ilya Salmanzadeh.

4. "Same Ol' Mistakes" by Rihanna

So I'm thinking Kevin Parker and the rest of Tame Impala owes Rihanna a card and some flowers, at the very least. She not only introduced me, and surely countless others, to the psychedelic rock band, but also put Parker to shame on his own track. Her cover of the band's "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" is a carbon copy instrumentally – which isn't a bad thing – but vocally, she nails it. A sprawling six and a half minutes long, the track is a hypnotic journey from start to finish that casts a relationship as an addicting tribulation.

3. "Somebody Else" by The 1975

This track is a trip, to say the least. It hums like a lit neon sign at each end, with a sweeping wave of automated drums, pulsating synthesizers, and reverberated vocals taking control in between. Reeking of jealousy and perceived betrayal, Matt Healy's lyrics recount feelings associated with a ex who left him with the false hope that reconciliation was possible – and they're lyrics that he delivers with appropriately fluctuation, expressing emotions that range from sorrow to frustration.

2. "Hotter Than Hell" by Dua Lipa

If there's one thing I spent the most time doing last year, it was spreading the word that Carly Rae Jepsen is one of the best pop artists of our generation. This year, most of that time has been reallocated to listening to Dua Lipa and (more importantly) convincing others to listen to Dua Lipa – and "Hotter Than Hell" is the track I've been shoving into my friends' ear holes to convert them into fans. One late June night, I composed a very important list of reasons that justifies "Hotter Than Hell" in its position on this list, and I stand by it. If you don't follow the link to that list, I'll give you a short synopsis: It's a tropical house banger that will remain as timeless as the artist who birthed it.

1. "Gemini Feed" by Banks

While any given track from Banks sophomore record could have easily taken the top spot on my list, I felt it was appropriate to hand it to "Gemini Feed" – the spark that ignites the bonfire that is The Altar. It marks the beginning of an album of personal evolution as Banks takes control back into her own hands with a swift, fiery hand. Accompanied by the snarling dissonance of a synthesized vocal line, she croons over bubbling verses before letting her emotions take control over the chorus – a storm of unexpected aggression from the woman who had spent the entirety of her last album wallowing in heartache and self-blame.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 10 Albums of 2016

10. Mind of Mine by Zayn

With a debut that clocks in at 20 tracks when deluxe tracks are added into the equation, Zayn Malik gives himself ample space to shape who himself as a solo artist. It seems he's had a lot to say for a long time, and for first time ever, he is uninhibited in his craft. After all, it's much easier to build a badass image over some brooding PBR&B, intricately crafted to be enjoyed in the dead of night, than his former band's bright pop-rock. Sure, he intrudes on some other artists' territory on Mind of Mine – the Weeknd was really the one to make Zayn's genre of choice accessible to pop audiences last year – and that would be a problem if he weren't doing this well. But he is.

Favorite tracks:
"BeFoUr," "BoRdErZ," "LIKE I WOULD," "lUcOzAdE," "TiO"

9. I Remember by AlunaGeorge

Whereas AlunaGeorge's debut album, Body Music, dipped its toes into the pool of mainstream pop, I Remember dives headfirst. Gliding through their stew of influences, Aluna Francis and George Reid have their sights split between a good time and experimentation through downtempo rhythm and blues, warm tropical house, and most often, bonafide pop disguised as banging electronic dance. In many respects, the twelve tracks of I Remember have rendered the duo's debut material, which was at one point deemed "futuristic pop," damn near obsolete. By and large, the album is a prepackaged party, but it's all executed with gusto, swinging smoothly from style to style without losing touch of home base.

Favorite tracks: "I'm in Control," "Mean What I Mean," Mediator," "Not Above Love"

8. Don't You by Wet

Wet's debut album takes the cake for the album that grew on me the most this year, for sure. While all 11 tracks on this record are derivatives of the same cross-breed of PBR&B, dreampop, and synthpop, attentiveness will easily discredit the careless listener who argues that the tracks stagnate as the album runs its course. Distracted listeners will only float at the top of a placid pool, while those who devote undivided attention to the album at hand will be sucked under the surface, encapsulated by the soothing body of water without the worry of grabbing another breath.

Favorite tracks: "It's All in Vain," "Deadwater," "Weak," "Island," "Move Me"

7. Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande

Unlike her previous releases, both overloaded with collaborations and hoards of producers, Dangerous Woman is Ariana Grande at her least formulated, at her most genuine. The smoothest transition into an adult image compared to her contemporaries, this album acts as her true sexual liberation. The deep dance undertones help raise the temperature, keeping the album pulsating like neon lights in a sticky nightclub and holding it to a consistent tone. She was a singer before – an extremely talented one, at that. But a record this consistent has finally rendered her an artist. One with a vision, one with a passion, and now more than ever, one with distinction.

Favorite tracks: "Be Alright," "Into You," "Greedy," "Thinking 'Bout You"

6. Long Way Home by Låpsley

Largely a product of suspicion and distress, Long Way Home listens as such. Unlike her two closest vocal equivalents – Amy Winehouse and Adele – she rejects the type of traditional pop production usually paired with her type of soulful inflection, often opting for sparse, self-produced beats and foggy atmospheres. The album, composed of tracks produced within a lengthy two-year span, is a safe space in which the young artist can learn to walk on her own two legs, learning from experience and massaging any growing pains along the way – yet the results of DIY song-making experiments render listeners breathless nonetheless.

Favorite tracks: "Cliff," "Falling Short," "Heartless," "Hurt Me," "Love is Blind"

5. Christine and the Queens by Christine and the Queens

Despite being the result of vigorous study of the superficial mirror of society that is pop music and being the home to a well-placed sample of a 2008 Kanye West hit, the debut album from Christine and the Queens is a well-versed dance record for modern-day philosophers who can never stop thinking and artists who can never stop creating. With an album that is both perceptive and danceable, Christine manages to marry two elements that are often thought of as mutually exclusive: the need for realistic thought and the desire for upbeat sonic appeal. It's a recipe that yields pop music that masks its great intelligence with glamour – but bears that intelligence nonetheless. (Yes, this album was released in the United States in late 2015. But if the great Annie Mac can put it on her 2016 list, so can I.)

Favorite tracks:
"iT," "Narcissus is Black," "No Harm is Done," "Safe and Holy," "Tilted"

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

Shocking entrants to the list, English pop-rock band The 1975 delivered an album this year that seeps with Tumblr-chic aesthetic, but within that aesthetic also lies substance. Frontman Matt Healy and his band members thrive in spicing everyday thoughts with some unorthodox topics of conversation, then covering it in glossy production tactics that cover any imperfections like sonic Instagram filters. While it's quite obvious as to why people like the sound of their tracks, their lyrical shtick validates listeners' experiences but pushes them into a degree of escapism – a pleasantly addictive sensation.

Favorite tracks:
"UGH!," "She's American," "Somebody Else," "The Sound"

3. Lemonade by Beyoncé

Both chronicling personal turbulence within a marriage and examining societal race issues from the standpoint of a black woman, Lemonade is a surprisingly concentrated piece of work that makes unprecedented statements from a mainstream artist – an archetype that normally does not stray from the status quo in fear of draining her listener pool. But Beyoncé is not par for the course in stardom; she has made it quite clear that she is Beyoncé, in a class of her own. This year, she dropped an album that has set a new precedent for independent women without another installment to her straightforward girl-power tracks. Life gave her lemons, and she did, indeed, make some of the world's finest Lemonade.

Favorite tracks:
"Pray You Catch Me," "Don't Hurt Yourself," "Daddy Lessons," "Formation"

2. Nothing's Real by Shura

The magic of Shura's debut album stems from the authenticity in her commitments to achieve a perfectly imperfect reimagination of porous, spacey '80s synthpop: Fuzzy layers of white noise, heavy reverberation, vocal filters, and succinct 808 hits make for an album that channels a decade with unbelievable execution for an artist who didn't even live through it. The album's competitive advantages can be found in its space age meandering, refusal to abandon a midtempo pace for a more marketable livelihood, and overt sincerity and pensive nature. Essentially, Nothing's Real is Shura's very own personal time capsule, crafted with care and filled with memories, home video tapes, and a heap of pop records that predate her by ten years, and we listeners have been invited only to marvel as it's cracked open.

Favorite tracks:
"Nothing's Real," "What's It Gonna Be?," "Touch," "Make It Up," "White Light"

1. The Altar by Banks

With its metamorphic narrative and natural sonic experimentation, The Altar was all but guaranteed to take the gold against its competition upon first listen. A masterful recalculation of her debut's heartbroken conclusions, the album resolves Banks' former insecurities with the reigning confidence she promised to have all along. It is represented by a title that, without context, hints at either of two extremes: unconditional or unrequited love. But because Banks opens the record with the snide "And to think you would get me to the altar," we enter the album with the understanding that the title does not represent the devotion (or lack thereof) to another. It is a devotion to herself: as an artist, as a sexual being, as a woman. And it is through that mindset that she truly reigns supreme.

Favorite tracks: "Gemini Feed," "Lovesick," "Trainwreck," "This is Not About Us," "Poltergeist"

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.

© Aural Fixation
Maira Gall