Top Pick: The 1975 | A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
You can swipe through all the British bands you want looking for your perfect match, but in the end, there are really only two types: The ones that can truly conquer America and the ones that can’t. The 1975 definitely deserve to be in the former category, but so far they’ve been unable to make the leap out of the latter. And based on their third album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, they’d better get comfortable, because that’s where they’re going to stay for the foreseeable future. This is not a criticism; if anything, it’s a compliment. Because on this 15-track extravaganza, singer and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Healy and his bandmates have produced their most ambitious, eclectic and multi-faceted album to date — and a disc that is quite simply far too extravagantly, unrepentantly weird and artsy to reach the toppermost of the U.S. poppermost (even if it does contain a song titled I Like America & America Likes Me). Truth be told, the 58-minute set should have no problem finding some love with Radiohead fans, thanks to some strange atmospheric tracks laced with smeared Vocorder performances and glitchy robo-grooves. But it’s every bit as likely to appeal to devotees of ’80s soul and funk, hushed electro-folk, contemporary R&B and gospel, Afrobeat and jazz (especially Roy Hargrove fans; the recently deceased trumpet master contributes some fine work here). All those genres and more come up in the rotation at one point or another — though virtually all of them get mixed, mingled and mutated into one-of-a-kind postmodern musical hybrids that resist easy categorization. Lyrically, the band is far easier to pin down. As you might expect, love (or the lack thereof) in the modern age is the topic du jour, though none of these jaundiced cuts comes within 100 metres of a typical boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl number. Be My Mistake voices a philanderer’s regret. Sincerity is Scary asks, “Why can’t we be friends when we are lovers?” It’s Not Living if It’s Not With You and Surrounded by Heads and Bodies are about addiction and rehab. And then there’s the Internet-obsessed fable The Man Who Married A Robot, the self-explanatory TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME and the stalker ballad Inside Your Mind. So swipe right at your own risk.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
• Arctic Monkeys | Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
• Dirty Projectors | Lamp Lit Prose
• The Good, the Bad & the Queen | Merrie Land
• Joy Formidable | AAARTH
• Lemon Twigs | Go To School
• Low | Double Negative
• Low Cut Connie | Dirty Pictures (Part 2)
• Parquet Courts | Wide Awake!
• Spiritualized | And Nothing Hurt
• Twenty One Pilots | Trench
** NOTE: Because Tinnitist has only been around since mid-September, this list features albums released and reviewed since then — along with whatever else I heard and remembered from the rest of the year. If you can’t find a review by clicking on the entry or searching the site — or you spot an obvious oversight in this list — the album you’re looking for probably came out too early for me to review it. Or I just didn’t have time. Either way, my bad.