After teasing “June 1st” for months in early 2015, The 1975 began posting cryptic images with text such as, “Pay not attention babe — it’s all pretend. Part of an act!!” and “Be Young and Shut Up.” Following a very brief disappearance from social media – prompting break up rumors – the band promptly returned on the afternoon of June 1st with a new pink album cover and revamped aesthetic. Gone was the expected black-and-white personality we had all welcomed from The 1975, welcomed was a splash of color – pink. Pink photos emerged, a pink album cover that mimicked that of 2013’s self-titled album, and pink attire.
All of this led up to the band’s highly anticipated sophomore album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, and as the band continues to expand on genres and influences, the new aesthetic makes sense as the next chapter of The 1975. Similar to the debut, this masterpiece of an album contains 17 songs, laden with instrumental elements and melodies that span across genres – ranging from the expected R&B flare, gospel influences, horns, and of course, pop melodies that come straight out of the ‘80s.
At a massive 17 songs, I like it when you sleep seems to pick up right where The 1975 left off, even starting with a familiar introductory song titled “The 1975.” From here though, the album expands in almost every way possible from the sound and artform that the debut and EPs so masterfully captured. The result is an album that feels like watching an epic film on screen – equipped with atmospheric instrumentals, groovy guitars, governing drums, and genre-hopping vocals. Still, despite veering across genres, the record does so in effortless fashion without missing a beat anywhere in between.
The 1975 aren’t afraid to continue to expand their influences and musical arsenal, as evidenced by first single “Love Me” being an incredibly polarizing release (to say the least). The R&B-tinged “UGH!” follows with some of the album’s best songwriting, resembling the come down from a drug kick, both with vocal tempo variability and as every instrument bounces in and out throughout. The vocal and musical tempos display how unique the musicianship of the band is, as few bands are capable of composing a song in this manner and it working so well. Remaining in the same playing field, “She’s American” uses frontman Matty Healy and Adam Hann’s buoyant guitars and Ross MacDonald’s basslines to guide the song in a way that even outshines what made me fall in love with 2013’s “Girls” and “Settle Down.” The band’s ability to have instrumentation that gets stuck in your head just as much as the vocal hooks and choruses – the guitars dance in and out of Healy’s vocal performance – remains unmatched in most pop songs today.
While of course The 1975 shines with crafting infectious pop songs, the ambient and atmospheric songs almost steal the show throughout the album. The spacey “A Change of Heart” references “The City” and “Robbers” in a captivatingly poignant way: “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 / I just had a change of heart.” A signature George Daniel somber drum cadence contrasts with spacey electronics as Healy croons the line in such a serene manner that it immediately disarms you when conjuring the referenced songs.
Out of previously unexplored territory, “If I Believe You” becomes a full-on gospel song, employing a choir and horns, while “Somebody Else” takes a twist after every turn, becoming the best song on the record as a result. The latter bleeds heartbreak throughout, starting immediately from the opening line: “So I heard you found somebody else / And at first I thought it was a lie / I took all my things that make sounds / The rest I can do without.” From here, the song spans to Healy delivering the chorus with a low vocal register that contrasts with the constant drumbeat as the song gains a spacey element. Even the call and return of “Get someone you love? / Get someone you need? / Fuck that / Get money / I can’t give you my soul” adds a layer, sounding entirely different than the rest of the song before returning back to the chorus. At six minutes, the song spans soundscapes and atmospheres – seamlessly. Then “Loving Someone” retains the aesthetic and emotional wavelength, adding R&B influenced drums with hip-hop inspired vocals and a taunting refrain of “Yeah you should be loving someone.”
Whereas on The 1975 the instrumental interludes all stayed within the some sonic wheelhouse (all around one minute, all short and atmospheric), this time around the instrumental elements feel like self-standing entities themselves. The most noteworthy instance of this comes from the line-up of “Please Be Naked” into “Lostmyhead” into “The Ballad of Me and My Brain” followed with the emotional powerhouse of “Somebody Else” and “Loving Someone.” The serene piano of “Please Be Naked” softly sets up the ethereal build-up that is “Lostmyhead,” which comes across as an emotional movie score that should play alongside every beautiful film scene this year as the guitars swell and break. Then “The Ballad of Me and My Brain” acts as the other side of the coin, building up the grittiest vocal performance on the album in juxtaposition as Healy croons, “While I think I’ve gone mad / Isn’t that so sad.”
The record ends on somber note with the touching “Nana” and stripped down “She Lays Down,” making I like it when you sleep really contain every genre you can think of into a cohesive unit – the pop meets R&B numbers (notably “UGH!”), the phenomenal instrumental pieces that blend into equally emotional performances (essentially “If I Believe You” through “I Like It When You Sleep”), and then the soft, acoustic ending with “She Lays Down.” At 17-tracks and an hour-long playtime, the album listening experience is similar to watching a movie trilogy – you really have to listen start-to-finish to gain the full experience. In my 2013 review, I described The 1975 as an album that breaks genre barriers and feels timeless. With I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, the band has eclipsed the success of their debut record, creating the first masterpiece of the year and one that will remain one for years to come.