Keely Chisholm ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
After the release of their first album, The 1975 had carved out an interesting slot for themselves. The British band burst onto the scene with broodingly poetic lyrics set to a combination of synth and indie rock instrumentation and seemed poised to either take over the rock charts, the pop charts, or even both.
Their second studio album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful and yet so unaware of it, follows their self-titled debut, which was released in 2013. The band’s aesthetic for the album is a collection of Tracy Emin-esque neon signs bearing the names of the tracks, all in a faded pink. It fits. I like it when you sleep… takes the synth-tinged music from the last album and turns it up a notch or six, leaving the guitar sounds on the back burner in favor of experimenting with glossy ’70s and ’80s sounds. It’s hard not to imagine lead singer Matty Healy prancing his way through the more upbeat songs on the album.
I like it when you sleep… opens with the same song as the first album: a hazy, mood-setting track called “The 1975.” This time, though, the vocals are fuller and more powerful, which sets the tone for a more ambitious album, something bigger than the last.
The leading single, “Love Me,” is next, with guitar riffs and synthy textures that recall David Bowie’s “Fame.” It plays with an easy-breezy yet ironic attitude about celebrity culture set to a radio-friendly pop background.
“UGH!” too, is one of the poppier tracks, though coming on the heels of “Love Me,” it has such a similar tone that it could probably fit somewhere else for better effect.
“A Change of Heart” is the strongest lyrically, with the sharpness that fans are familiar with—you may have to look in the album liner notes to fully decipher—and a biting sense of reality. Lines like “You took a picture of your salad and put it on the Internet” and “I’ll quote On the Road like a t**t and wind my way out of the city” paint a picture of a vague yet dysfunctional pair. It even references lyrics from the first album: “You used to have a face straight out of a magazine” is a throwback to “Robbers,” and “I never found love in the city” comes from “The City”’s declaration that if “you want to find love, then you know where the city is.”
“She’s American” might be the clearest return to the jaunty pop sounds present in the last album, reflecting the lyrics “Healy sings about a girl who is a breath of new air to him yet rooted in her own head.”
The mood takes a turn for the existential with “If I Believe You,” with lyrics telling the story of a former nonbeliever calling out to God. Even in this moment of soul-searching, Healy manages to be his usual wry self: “I mean, if it was you who made my body you probably shouldn’t have made me atheist.” The opening chords and the chorus on the refrain bring to mind walking into a church and hearing a gospel choir, adding to the religious imagery.
“Please Be Naked” is the only purely instrumental track on the album. It sounds like it could be part of a film score for the scene in the movie where it’s gray outside and pouring rain while the main character sits in a car, thinking about life. With that in mind, it’s time to return to the introspection.
“Lostmyhead” is the same six lines over fuzzy sustained guitar chords, the perfect song for driving late at night. “The Ballad Of Me And My Brain” marks the return to the more vocally-driven songs, combining the irony of “Love Me” and the introspection that was introduced with “Please Be Naked” to create another look at fame, this time from the inside of his own mind.
“Somebody Else” sees Healy expressing his regret over a lost lover, saying he could deal with the breakup but hating the idea of them “with somebody else.” It’s one of the least dense songs on the album, the lyrics not needing too much reading into to grasp the idea of the song, but it’s welcome—it makes it easy to enjoy.
“Loving Someone” features rhythmic verses reminiscent of Ed Sheeran’s “Bloodstream”, this time commenting on the messages of the mass media. For artists who embrace the mass media, appearing on Saturday Night Live and with songs in the regular rotation on BBC’s Radio 1, it’s delightfully ironic.
The album’s eponymous track is the epitome of postmodern. It crackles, hums, and pops with energy, with a few lines sung in between sections, but it’s a hard song to try and sum up in a few words. It’s amorphous yet constantly in motion, always looking for somewhere new to go.
“The Sound” takes the essence of retro pop and mixes it with lyrics about a difficult ex-lover…and then name-drops the Greek philosophers Socrates and Epicurus. It might be the most 1975 thing that The 1975 has ever done—they’re aware these references could come off as pretentious, yet they celebrate it by backing them up with classic pop beats.
From here, the album gets downright pensive. It’s not the sharp wittiness that dominated the first section—it ruminates, it writes, and then it shrugs. “This Must Be My Dream” and “Paris” both focus on something lost that wasn’t quite right, but is missed anyway.
“Nana” strips away the shiny sounds and the slick riffs in favor of gentle acoustic picking to frame lyrics about Healy’s late grandmother.
“She Lays Down” opens with the same soft acoustic sounds and bare vocals. “That was it,” says the last line, spoken after the last chord is strummed, and it’s a fitting end. The return to a more conventional arrangement makes for a nice, solid finish to the album.
Healy has a habit of letting his accent and voice make the words indistinguishable in parts, sometimes mumbled, sometimes stuck somewhere in his throat—but that’s part of the charm. Added to backing vocals from drummer George Daniel, guitarist Adam Hann, and bassist Ross MacDonald, the overall effect is a stereoscopic feel that captures attention, as though something big is about to happen.
With the long stretches of instrumentals, sometimes the album feels like it’s getting lost in its own experimentation, but that can be forgiven, if patient enough to wait for it to it to pick up again. As an album, it’s not meant for singing in the shower. A few songs are, sure, but this isn’t a typical rock release. In the wandering quality of the instrumental breaks and the occasional orchestral swells, the album finds a place for itself amidst a postmodern, shoegaze-styled sea of riffs and poetry. It’s not for everyone; it’s not even for everyone who’s already a fan. It’s something entirely different for The 1975. Like the neon signs, not everyone is going to get it, but those who will are bound to like it.