Listening may require a cigarette afterwards, and no, not an e-cig.Partisan Records, 2017
7.7 / 10
Cigarettes After Sex start off the way that many indie bands wish they could. A breakout song, “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby”, that gave the band over 46 million views on YouTube. Plus, they have over 300K Facebook fans at this moment. Their self-titled debut arrives finally following the 2012 EP I. It’s strange then that Cigarettes After Sex arrives quietly, even if it does so along new releases from Phoenix and Sufjan Stevens. However, it speaks to the band’s slowcore style. They’re not in a rush to get anywhere in their songs. And they’re not in a rush to swell their fanbase with new listeners. It will come naturally off the strength of their addictive and somewhat haunting music.
The band’s music seems to take its cues from the lush moodiness of David Lynch’s films where Angelo Badalamenti provides the score. They hush their details with hazy mystery before allowing some volume to creep up. Greg Gonzalez’s vocals sound like a cross between Abel Tesfaye and the delicate falsetto of The Antlers’ Peter Silberman. He romances the words with a tenderness that feels warm and inviting even among the band’s imposing bleakness. It never menaces; rather, it slowly moves in like a dark cloud. Still, Cigarettes After Sex never feels depressing. But it gives off an aura that joy is always fleeting and never a constant in their music. Gonzalez says as much on “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby”:
And each time you kiss a girl
You never know what it’s worth
You say all of the words they wanna hear
It isn’t real
Finding love and remaining faithful seems much harder in the golden age of instant gratification. A new lover is just a swipe away. Gonzalez’s lyrics often express the same sentiments of desire and lust while the music maintains its woozy, off-balance dreaminess. Obviously, this means that Cigarettes After Sex’s songs risk a samey quality. However, the album’s track arrangement is set up in a way for nothing too similar to end up back-to-back. Much like Beach House, Gonzalez’s lyrics also establish footing for listeners with catchy hooks. Or sometimes it’s a single lyric as on album closer, “Young & Dumb”: “I know full well that you are the patron saint of sucking cock.” Don’t be surprised if you need a cigarette after listening.