When was the last time you heard of a group taking nine years to release their first LP? Well, the long, long, long-awaited, self-titled debut album, following EP ‘I.’ in 2012, from Cigarettes After Sex is finally here, and it delivers everything that the legions of underground fans who have progressively discovered Greg Gonzalez’ ambient pop group since their formation in 2008 will be wanting.
‘Cigarettes After Sex’ sounds exactly like what it says on the tin. It was teased with single ‘K.’ last year, which appears as the first track on the album. This is Cigarettes After Sex at their most complete. Gonzalez’s soft vocals support cautious, minimalist, but truly stunning storytelling, demonstrating his unique ability to capture the detail of a moment. In ‘K.’, and to a lesser extent ‘Sweet’, it feels as though the listener is granted intimate access to a fantasy in all its tenderness.
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‘Each Time You Fall In Love’ is a potentially divisive song. It has a similar appeal to much of Lana Del Rey’s non-single tracks, where the lyrics aren’t particularly innovative, yet they are given a devastating and atmospheric emotional impact through their delivery.
At some point between ‘Sunsetz’ and ‘Apocalypse’, the album hits its peak, and it’s glorious. Your favourite track will undoubtedly be one of these, and your choice will largely depend on whether you’re a romantic or a cynic. ‘Sunsetz’ has the most charming melody on the whole album. It exquisitely captures that familiar, bittersweet nostalgia of remembering someone you loved, and it’s probably a great soundtrack to a low point in someone’s breakup. ‘Apocalypse’ features one of those timeless, most striking lyrics: “Your lips, my lips, apocalypse”. Simple, yet effective. Whoever his muse is, she is practically deified on this album.
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From ‘Flash’ to ‘John Wayne’, the album becomes, for some reason, less inventive. None of these songs are objectively bad but the organisation of the track listing requires incredible patience of its listener. ‘Opera House’ tells one of Cigarettes After Sex’s best stories, but it is also its slowest and longest track. Its positioning at the album’s midway point feels more like a test of your attention span. It possesses the kind of acid-trip pace which belongs at the end of an LP and would be a more fitting end than ‘Young & Dumb’, which, in turn, would have been a welcome refresher at the halfway line.
This is definitely a Sunday evening album, or a middle-of-the-night insomnia album, one which needs to be listened to in uninterrupted peace and quiet to be fully appreciated. It is the fully-realised, masterfully crafted product of the last nine years of Cigarettes After Sex’s sound.