Few bands have generated as much hype as Cigarettes After Sex without becoming full-fledged superstars yet, but this album might just take them there. After years of attention around a handful of smaller releases they finally break into their first full-length, and while it doesn’t always feel as fleshed out, the focus on the record is hypnotizing.
Opening on the simmering guitar of “K.” it quickly opens into a pumping drum line and strings that calm the soul, all before the vocals come in. As the beautiful rasp of Greg Gonzalez plays over drums the track focuses on groove to make the choruses a dreamy dynamic wash. In a burying level of synths, “Each Time You Fall In Love” sweeps you into its dreamy depths and the groove just doubles down on that. As per the band’s usual M.O. they build the sounds they have and don’t push it unnecessarily, making for a song that hits with brutal joy and worry.
“Sunsetz” brings a lot of bright tones to its fading beauty, slowly burning while rolling over different layers of emotions like a Beach House song broken down to its raw core. The pounding bass in the verses highlights their ability to really drive any individual part, making them all the more devastating as a result. Shifting to more hook-focused pop on “Apocalypse” they craft some delightfully bouncy, yet somehow melancholy pop. Along with a drifting ride cymbal to match their guitars, they push their already moving melodies to something grander and divine.
Radiating a sense of pain on “Flash” Cigarettes After Sex move to a much slower and drawn out push, to take a more emotive focus in the writing. While not varying nearly as much, the track serves the mood of the album well as a good transition piece to the second half. Oozing pop in the melodic rounds of “Sweet” Gonzalez is clearly having some fun as they move to a much happier and exciting sound both emotionally and melodically. Not letting the upbeat change take away from their dense writing as they make a beautiful song that’s just as entertaining.
On a searing ring, “Opera House” takes a slow stomp forward in its incredibly stretched out notes that squeeze every last second out of their tone. While its brilliance sonically can’t always sustain its drawn out sound, the intensity of each instrument delivers on other fronts. “Truly” slides back to their sunnier side, with bass mixed right to the front. The groovy melodies and the humming guitar lines shine through, making a pop track that never forces a moment, instead opting for satisfyingly subtle transitions where each instrument comes in sublimely.
Starting off a little repetitive, “John Wayne” sheds this by its first chorus through its huge dynamic shift, really shifting their predictability back into question. Overt and maybe too brash in lyrics, “Young & Dumb” balances critique and self-doubt while unfortunately feeling a little repetitive in the grand scheme of the album, as entrancing as it is on its own.
Words by Owen Maxwell