I was starting to get nervous about Cigarettes After Sex. Their debut EP, I., had picked up some steam when it was released – in 2012. Sure, they’d released a couple singles here and there, but without any word of an album, or even an EP, I got a little bit disheartened. Cut to present day and Cigarettes After Sex are releasing their self-titled debut and it’s everything I could have wanted out of a follow-up to I. The album picks up up exactly where the EP left off, offering up ten tracks of melancholic, languid indie rock.
If you’ve never listened to Cigarettes After Sex, their sound falls somewhere between Beach House and Bedhead – dream pop, but stretched out a bit. It’s mood music in the best possible way; every song moves at about the same pace with Greg Gonzalez’s lilting voice barely ever rising above a hushed croon. There are no moments on the record that could accurately be described as loud. It wouldn’t be wrong to criticize the album for a lack of variety, necessarily. But, honestly, I’m hardly bothered by it, because Cigarettes After Sex only attempts one thing – establishing a vibe – and it succeeds in spades. Even down to the cover: all black, with the band name in simple white lettering right in the middle.
The album’s lyrics are another key factor on the record, and in that sense, it’s very aptly titled. Nearly every song finds Gonzalez reminiscing on a sexual encounter, or imagining one in the future. Sometimes this pays off better than others. He recalls on opener “K.” that “we had made love earlier that day with no strings attached, but I could tell something had changed how you looked at me then,” and it’s a poignant moment. By album closer “Young & Dumb,” though, the object of his affection becomes “the patron saint of sucking cock.” It’s likely the line would be jarring in any context, but when juxtaposed with Gonzalez’s delicate voice and the beautiful instrumentation, it’s enough to take you out of it completely – if you’re paying attention to the lyrics, at least. They often feel like they’re just layers of the song, especially paired with Gonzalez’s soft delivery.
That’s the most impressive aspect of this project. Every piece feels like it fits together so perfectly. Honestly, Cigarettes After Sex is one of the most cohesive albums I’ve heard in a very long time. Yes, again, it is fair to point out that what I call cohesive someone else calls one-note. But I’ll be damned if that one note isn’t perfectly on key.