By Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor
Key tracks: “Don’t Let Me Go”, “You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life”, “Kiss It Off Me”
When Cigarettes After Sex emerged with their sultry haze of noir ambient pop in 2017, their music naturally became a perfect accompaniment for candlelit evenings and starry-eyed pillow talks. For those who aren’t that lucky, CAS makes perfect music to fill the voids of lonely hearts that long for a dreamlike fantasy that could only exist through the velvety vocals and the romance-driven world of frontman Greg Gonzalez.
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The quintet’s second and latest release, Cry, continues to fill that void of loneliness, desperately yearning for intimacy in all of its forms. With eccentric talent that allows him to romanticize any moment into an evocative four-minute vignette, Gonzalez holds nothing back in order to drive each pulsating desire from the deep confines of his emotions. Cry is not necessarily a sequel to their self-titled debut but rather another collection of memories imprisoned by nostalgia.
As always, the band is enamored by delicate melodies that conjoin with affairs of pure romance, sensual allure and the deep afterthoughts of limerence. Divined from the tonal patterns of their defined, ethereal-yet-swaying soundscape, tracks such as “Touch”, “Falling in Love” and “Heavenly” parallel the same lovestruck appeal of their self-titled. In more wistful numbers (“Don’t Let Me Go”, “Cry”) Gonzalez’s sensitive, androgynous voice amplifies the atmosphere to another level of writhing heartache and melancholy.
Although the band has mastered and retained the same renowned resonance—the creamy guitar reverbs and precisely-executed drum brushes that anchor the structure—Gonzalez’s lyrical ambition in this album falls short at times.
From the glaringly risqué lines of “Hentai” to all the “rich fuckboys” in “Kiss It Off Me”, this album disguises lyrical lulls with Gonzalez’s sweet voice, which in part, is a result of his tendency to romanticize anything that comes to mind—even if it raises an eyebrow at a close listen. When that’s coupled with a lack of mood shifts, distinct hooks, structural experimentation or any kind of musical spontaneity, the album drags on and habituates the listener to a 40-minute slow burn of schmaltzy, drawn-out ballads.
In Cigarettes After Sex’s 2017 song, “Apocalypse”, Gonzalez gracefully croons, “Got the music in you baby, tell me why / You’ve been locked in here forever, and you just can’t say goodbye.” Cry has become an extrapolation of those lines—an album that demonstrates the band’s virtuosity but is hindered all-too-often by obsessive nostalgia. It’s only a matter of time before their smoky, noir aesthetic turns completely monotone. Although Cry has subtle weaknesses, the band continues to win hearts with their sincerity and vulnerability, making it a delightful soundtrack for the right occasion.