Album Review: LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[DFA; 2017]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: “other voices”, “how do you sleep?”, “tonite”

After a four-year hiatus, a farewell concert and many canceled tour dates, somehow LCD Soundsystem got back together and completed their fourth studio album, American Dream, the band’s first album in over seven years. The album focuses on depression, drugs, aging, lost love and friendships, and is highly influenced by the work of David Bowie.

American Dream opens with “oh baby”, a lyrically-longing but musically sparkling love song. The album quickly switches gears to an upbeat and cynical “other voices”, the only track to feature band member Nancy Whang in a Vogue-like spoken word section. This is followed by screeching guitar and synth, motifs that carry through the rest of the album and add a heaviness to most of the other tracks.

“change yr mind” has lyrics that connect with anyone who struggles with depression, as frontman James Murphy croons about how he can’t get out of bed, feeling like he is too old to fight and that he has lost himself and is slipping away. The music behind it is a crunchy and jarring guitar riff over a bubbling synth.

One of the biggest standouts on the album is “how do you sleep?”, a nine-minute, drum-driven, screeching and wailing track about losing friends to drugs and taking “one step forward and six steps back.” The drumming is almost anxiety-ridden and carries on through all nine minutes of the track. It is only until around three minutes in where hard hitting synth pounds on top of the lyrics and is later joined by guitar to culminate into a pulsating cry for help. The only problem with this track is whether it could stand on its own outside the realm of the album, which honestly, it probably can’t.

“tonite” breaks the haze of “how do you sleep?” in a groovy and bass synth-focused track with cascading keyboard flourishes and an electro-punk flair. It’s probably the only track on the album that is remotely danceable. It’s deceivably upbeat until you think about the lyrics. This becomes a theme for the last three tracks; “call the police” has an 80’s style synth and a more prominent rock influence. “american dream” has a wavy electronic sound that runs under lyrics about fear and pain, and in some moments, delivers a softness that almost undercuts the seriousness of the lyrics. It feels like a slow dance with depression.

“emotional haircut” doesn’t seem to match any of the other songs, as it is decidedly guitar and drum based and a harder and heavier singing style. Even though it is one of the catchiest tracks, it seems out of place on the album. What is an emotional haircut anyway? A Mohawk? An emo shag? A questionable bowl cut? The album winds down into “black screen,” a twelve-minute long tribute to David Bowie. It’s dark and soulful and mostly just feels like a repetitive soundscape. To be honest, the song could have been half the length and still has been just as effective.

Overall, the album is successful in creating unique and memorable tracks that are cohesive, but outside listening to the album all at once, some of the tracks can’t stand on their own. That’s probably because of their length, with almost every track clocking in at over five minutes long. That being said, the album is lyrically touching and the music is produced well enough to overcome the length. You did it, LCD Soundsystem. You made another great album, and we’re here for it. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another seven years for the next one.

Listen here:

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