Sound — 8
In recent years, we have experienced a resurgence in interest for music that's ethereal and atmospheric, Something that you could just put on your headphones, close your eyes and let the music paint the most diverse landscapes in your mind. These are traits that I am looking forward to hear a lot in my recent music discoveries, and it was a surprise to me when I found Cigarettes After Sex through youtube and saw the number of views in one of their early singles (“Affection”) had. Ethereal instrumentation, androgynous vocals and melodies sung by front man Greg Gonzalez and a romantic, quasi-melancholic vibe. That was surely a band I should keep my eyes and ears on. So, when Cigarettes After Sex released their debut album in 9th June of 2017, I quickly got it to take a listen.
The album open ups with the single “K”, released some time before the full length, and you get exactly what you would expect by listening to them before: catchy and minimalistic clean guitar melodies, a slow tempo on drums and bass that keep the songs smooth and welcoming, romantic lyrics and a calm singing by Gonzalez, almost like he's singing lullabies by the bedside of it's listeners. “Each Time you Fall in Love” follows, with a keyboard intro by band member Phillip Tubs, followed by Gonzales voice. Similar to the first tune, we have sparsely played instruments and clean effects on the guitars. The whole production of the album, although clear as day, makes heavy use of reverb and buries the guitars deep into the mix, almost like if it was occupying the same space as the keyboards. This helps the band to achieve the 'ethereal' and 'spacey' vibe I mentioned earlier and it manages to get good results.Sadly, once we arrive at the fifth song, “Flash”, (half of the album by this point) the listener can already spot the major flaw of this self-titled release: the compositions, although showing good quality, are very similar and the whole album sounds quite formulatic in many points. One can argue that repetition and minimalism are key elements of this style, but bands with similar a approach like Cocteau Twins, Still Corners and Low, just to name a few, manage to keep things interesting through the whole of their albuns. It seems like the album has no sense of flow, like you could start it from any song in the tracklist and it would not make a difference. The highlight of the album is the song “Opera House”, where the formula presented here reaches it's peak, with a great sense of melancholy and romanticism, almost like a tragic feel to it. However, though most of the songs here hold well on their on, the repetition makes some of them not stand out and entertain that much when listened one after the other.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrically, Cigarettes After Sex deals pretty much with themes of love and relationships. Greg Gonzalez sings with a intimate and whispery tone in all songs, never raising up his voice, keeping the melodies hypnotic as possible. The lyrics itself are not that poetic or hard to understand and some of them are really dumb like on the, ahem, “Young and Dumb” song, that reads:
“Well I know full well that you are
The patron saint of sucking cock
Señorita, you're a cheater
Well, so am I”
At least to me, some of the lyrics breaks off the mood in some songs. It's strange to hear someone saying “patron saint of sucking cock” with ethereal instrumentation and melancholic harmonies. It's like interrupting the vibe a little. We have, however songs where the lyrics are ok, not a genius effort by any means, but fits the atmosphere perfectly, like on the aforementioned “Opera House”, with great and sad-filled melodies while Gonzalez sings about love at first sight:
Built an opera house for you in the deepest jungle
And I walked across its stage, singing with my eyes closed
I've got a love for you I just can't escape
All of my love for you cuts me like barbed wire
Ooh, I was meant to love you
And always keep you in my life
Ooh, I was meant to love you
I knew I loved you at first sight
Overall Impression — 8
At the end of the day, Cigarettes After Sex delivers a good amount of songs for the melancholic and romantic out there to enjoy. A little variety on it's approach could heavily benefit the album as a whole, but it's not a bad release by any means. This is a kind of music you'll hardly be listening unless you are in for the mood they present, so maybe this is all right. I will surely look forward for their next releases from here on, and hope they can keep developing their sound and creating more and diverse sonic landscapes for us to contemplate.