Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

by David Bruggink Rating:9 Release Date:2017-06-09

Cigarettes After Sex is ample proof that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm can serve me with surprisingly good music from time to time, in addition to its usual smattering of late night monologues. Months ago, it recommended a song from an artist I’d never heard before, and the first thing that struck me was its striking cover, an artfully blurred photograph of a woman with her head arched backward in ecstasy. I was expecting a forgotten single from 4AD in the early 90’s, and the sound only confirmed it - a hazy, bare-bones pop song, possibly recorded in an empty air hangar, with the quality of a lost dream pop gem. I was instantly intrigued, and discovered that this was, in fact, the work of a contemporary “ambient pop” band fronted by Greg Gonzalez. Perhaps more surprisingly, the group had released only a handful of tantalizing tracks in five years.

So I was excited to see that, after amassing millions of YouTube views, a full-length album was finally going to see the light of day. The early singles, along with the black and white cover art, suggested that I could expect a fulfillment of what had been hinted at on previous EPs, and indeed, this self-titled album delivers on the promise of the hype and the band’s rapidly growing popularity.

Elements of the band’s sound can be recognized in other talented bearers of the dream pop torch, particularly in the languid, reverb-saturated guitar lines of Beach House. However, the best point of comparison for the album might be the Cowboy Junkies’ similarly hypnotic (and somnambulant) Trinity Session. Though the actual components of the sound - typically Gonzalez’s vocals, drums, guitar, bass, and sometimes synthesizer - are limited in number and reserved in playing style, the minimal compositions give each component a sparkling purity, and highlight the memorable melodies at the core of each song.

Though the tone never ventures far from lovelorn, nocturnal elegance, this gives the album a cohesiveness that you’d normally expect from ambient records. Rather than becoming repetitive, it serves as a sustained hymn to the romanticism that can only be imparted by late-night reflection.

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