Album Review: The 1975's I like it when you sleep

The 1975 is the most interesting band recording right now. Because they know how to balance their obsessions--namely mainstream cultural touchstones, 80s music, and romantic angst--with pop smarts, they create infectious music. Their second LP, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, betters their debut because it more effectively weaves together their preoccupations--an impressive feet given their accomplished debut and that this album is more eclectic than the first.

Because I like it... sprawls 17 (mostly excellent) songs, I'm having hard time talking about it as a cohesive unit (though it satisfyingly plays through). As such, I want to talk about five songs that represent the diversity on display, as well as highlight the unifying trends.

"UGH!"
Yes, it's a bratty title, and the tune struts it's way through lyrics about a narcissistic friend who constantly uses his peers as sounding boards and mirrors for his own self-obsession. Like many tunes on the record, this is for the Instragram generation but filtered through some retro sounds, and lead vocalist Matthew Healy dials up the indignant lyrics by shouting his voice raw. A lot of this album is about contrasts (retro sounds vs modern technology, aging vs youthful self obsession), and this song plays Healy's ragged vocals against a pristine electric production.


"She's American"
The 1975 is an unabashedly English band, and while mass culture often seems to transcend nationality, this song works as a critique of that idea, filtered through the tale of a doomed couple--a self-conscious English guy and a critical, vapid American girl. Lovers don't often come out well on I like it... but the melodrama adds heat to these songs, making what might seem grating come off as specific and peculiar.

"Please Be Naked"
This somber piano ballad wouldn't feel out place on Kate Bush's Director's Cut, nor is it far removed from M83's soft moments. As an instrumental, it provides some breathing space amidst the drama. It also plays with our sense of nostalgia, layering static, dripping sounds, and subtle background vocals to the dreamy soundscape. If this were to soundtrack a film, it would be for the scene when the heroine walks through the rain. The song's cinematic nature emphasizes the album's expansive aesthetic.

"The Sound"
Say what you will about 80s kitsch, it was a decade dedicated to pop confection in every form. "The Sound" plays like a tribute to the era, from the bouncy chorus, to the love-lorn "me me me" lyrics and the electric guitar solo at the bridge. It may also be the most melodic tune on the album, working as the perfect ear-worm (and among their best singles).


"She Lays Down"
I like that the 1975 decided to end this sprawling, complex, and carefully produced record with a straight-up guitar ballad that sounds like it is being performed at a vacant dive-bar. Lyrically, it's a simple portrait of a down-trodden girl with a drug problem, but it is affectionately rendered. Healy delivers a low-key vocal, showing he doesn't have to be all flash. The tune puts a pretty, pink period on the end of the sprawling, lyrical sentence that is the album as a whole.



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