Ambient pop band Cigarettes after Sex recently released their debut album, Cigarettes after Sex. As listeners are gifted with lullabies about the most cliché forms of love, ranging from a teenage romance in a park to an unrequited love as an adult, the band takes us through so many stages of life that resounds with almost any listener. So are these songs any different from the singles they’ve released over the past few years? I would say no. Almost all songs on the album follow nearly identical beats with a hazy atmosphere, created by gentle drum beats and echoing guitars that create a somnambulant pace. Their signature style is essentially a constant repetition of a set of beats that create an undying rhythm throughout; making the entire album seem like one extremely long song.
In addition to the monotonous pace, this album produces some of the most uninspiring lyrics. For example Greg Gonzalez, lead vocalist, croons about “helicopters erupting in his heart” in ‘Flash’ and “seeing a girl open her dress and show her tits” and you are slightly taken aback by the clunky words woven into a melancholy melody. However, despite these flaws, what is it about this album that constantly draws me back in? It is simply how they’ve managed to make the mundane facets of life seem beautiful.
It is easy to gauge the aura of the music they create – it literally calms you down and lulls you into a meditative state
While the lyrics of their music might seem amateur and clunky, they are refreshingly simple. They represent ideas that anybody can relate to; lines such as “Apocalypse, your lips” in their song ‘Apocalypse’, while seeming too simplistically rhymed, echo momentously the yearnings and consequences of love. Cigarettes after Sex manage to communicate complex emotions through an accessible format. Moreover Gonzalez’s androgynous voice carries through all the songs – a beautifully blended genderless sonic wave with a slight noir edge. Moreover, it is always his voice that is at the forefront of the songs in the album unlike other songs in the genre where ambient echoes often drown out the vocalist. His voice blazes through the atmosphere haze of guitars and percussion beats hence giving the band’s music an almost ethereal element to it. Their lyrics do not need to be any more complex, the deep nuances and emotions of their music is easily communicated in Gonzalez’s unique voice and the rhythmic hum.
Grouped under the recent subgenre of ‘chillwave’, Gonzalez claims that the biggest praise he has ever received is that fans have said that their music help with sleep anxiety. It is easy to gauge the aura of the music they create – it literally calms you down and lulls you into a meditative state. The fact that 50% of the songs comprises of merely the chorus is not lazy effort, it is a calculated move that amplifies the aesthetic of the music the band produces.
We live in an incredibly fast moving world today, and the ambient synthesizers of the band’s music is a welcome relief from the very hustle of living in the 21st century. In a world where EDM and trap dominate the youth market, Cigarettes after Sex has produced music that is the modern day millennial-version of a lullaby. The mundane nature of their music puts us in a state of mind where you need not be doing something or be “productive” in a capitalistic sense. It is this opportunity to do ‘nothing’ that makes their music unique.
The hushed and subdued rhythm created by Cigarettes after Sex is the artistic equivalent of marijuana and, perhaps, a perfect companion to it too.