It was a frigid February morning and I was huddled with my sister on Orchard Street trying to soak in sunlight to combat the unforgiving wind. I had only been standing there for about 20 minutes, but she and her friends had been on the street since 2AM counting down the moments. We barely noticed when the car pulled up at the curb and the 1975 rolled out, all retro fringe and rockstar shades. Screams erupted as Matty Healy pulled off his sunglasses and sniffed the frozen air, “Oi, it’s blazin’ out here!”
Some 15 minutes later we were inside the LES gallery space rented for their one-day pop-up, a well-kept secret to promote their brand new album: I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
. My sister had hunted down the address only hours before she arrived on the scene, and now some two hundred fans were lining the adjacent blocks waiting for their turn to buy the new music and meet their idols. The bare brick walls were hung with neon signs spelling out new album tracks, and brightly-colored photographs in stark white frames played on lyrical themes. Nothing could stop me now: I was going to buy the boxed set
. I had almost preordered it originally, instantly attracted by the neon-pink lucite casing
and the idea of exclusive 7” singles
, but the price tag seemed steep—now that I had a chance at an autographed copy of the LP
, it seemed well worth it.
Bubble-wrap trailed out of my pockets as I ascended the back stairway, barely registering the photographs hung along the hall. My eyes had barely adjusted to life in neon pink when I realized this was no formal record signing meet-and-greet. The minimal loft space had been converted into a sort of listening lounge, with a well-worn black leather sofa totally abandoned as the band wandered free, chatting with fans, taking selfies, sharpie-ready for autographs. Each wall held massive prints of album artwork, including the neon sign spelling out the impossibly long album title, coating everything with a candy-colored glow. I barely registered the upbeat Haim song piped in as I embarked on my signature-collecting mission, LP clutched tightly and phone camera-ready in pocket. At one point, I found myself nervously chatting to Ross MacDonald about the album, admitting I had listened to it on loop since it had leaked a couple days earlier. “It’s a bit all-over-the-place, don’t you think?” He asked with a certain degree of concern in his voice.
At first listen, it is. The band’s now-signature, self-titled opener
is given a brighter, chorus-driven vocal, turning it from sort of sleepy to deliberately dreamy
before launching straight into the retro-funky Love Me
. The transition from swelling synth and slow vocal to Bowie-Chic guitar
is a little jarring, but maybe intentional considering the dialog proposed by the leading single’s lyrics. That said, Love Me
remains among my favorite tracks on the album: aside from the obvious musical similarities, the lyrics read like a Millenial Fame
, equally cynical in a new age language. It’s the same cynicism that pervades songs like Change of Heart
, which feels like the disillusioned follow-up
to their self-titled LP
’s the City
. It’s the falling-out-of-love story after the romance of Robbers
“You used to have a face straight out of a magazine
Now you just look like anyone
I just had a change of heart
I feel as though I was deceived
I never found love in the city
I just sat in self-pity and cried in the car”
But it’s not all twenty-something bitterness and upset. One of the album’s standouts is the ethereal, choral-driven This Must Be My Dream, an upbeat, synth-pop plea of adolescent optimism that simply sticks with you. Like She’s American and the Sound, it’s got a catchy, danceable beat that distracts you from the admittedly garbled, Manchesterese lyrics long enough that you might be surprised by the actual words:
“You got excited and now you find out that your ‘girl’
won’t even get you undressed or care about your beating chest”
Personally, I think the album might have been better ending on the following track, Paris. The relaxed, nostalgic vibe is a pleasant wind-down from some of the album’s quicker-paced tracks without bringing down the mood or inducing sleep–but the band continues with two additional tunes. Nana and She Lays Down are both absolutely heartbreaking, tragic songs backed by a simple acoustic guitar, bringing the album to a strange, unsettling end. If they had been anywhere else, I might be able to overlook the general air of melancholy peppered through the record’s more electronic tracks. Concentrated at the end, however, it’s an unavoidable fact: this is kind of a really sad album. It tells stories about lost identities, painful breakups, faith questioned, and deaths faced. But when wrapped in a package of synthesizers and pop guitar riffs, they seem almost idyllic. There’s a romance to the kind of jaded cynicism the 1975 is peddling—a kind of absurdist idealism.
While the musical style does jump from chill out groove to new generation funk to acoustic heartbreak ballad, the mood of I Like It When You Sleep… makes it a logical follow-up to the band’s 2013 EP. If the 1975 was about sex and drugs and making memories with friends, I Like It When You Sleep… is about facing the world after teenage dreams begin to melt away. You might not know who you are, you might not recognize your relationships, you might even lose the people closest to you, but you can be damned stylish and look good doing it.