Primed for pillow talk

Cigarettes After Sex Photo: Supplied/Ebru Yildiz

Moving at a glacial pace, Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymous debut album is subdued but deeply evocative in its lust and lingering sense of infatuation.

Cigarettes After Sex/ Cigarettes After Sex

Fresh off their debut gig in Bangkok last month, Brooklyn-based quartet Cigarettes After Sex have now dropped their long-awaited self-titled debut album, some five years after their breakout EP I. Formed in Texas by singer Greg Gonzalez in 2008, the band went largely undetected until a few years later when Nothing’s Gonna Hurt YouBaby blew up on YouTube.

The video, uploaded not by the band but a random YouTube user, is simply an audio showing nothing more than the EP cover artwork. It has, to date, garnered over 50 million views. Set to a languid bassline and wistful synths, the song maintains a slow burn akin to a lit cigarette. Gonzalez’s vocals, muted and understated, hover blissfully between post-coital haze and melancholia.

The slowcore-leaning sonic aesthetic continues to define Cigarettes After Sex’s subsequent singles including their debut LP. Opener K starts off with suspended keys before the drums and guitars join in, resulting in something close to a sequel to Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby. “Kristen, come right back/I’ve been waiting for you/To slip back in bed when you light the candle,” Gonzalez muses, his voice coming across like a soothing salve for the soul.

Each Time You Fall In Love arrives with the kind of spectral, minimal bass one might associate with a handful of The xx’s tracks. “Each time you fall in love/It’s clearly not enough/You sleep all day and drive out in LA,” he croons in a hushed tone. “She took you for a ride in summer, baby/Lost all your money to her/All I want to know is if you love her/How come you never give in?”

Apocalypse begins in much the same manner as its predecessors, but when the chorus hits, it quickly establishes itself as one of the album’s clear standouts. “You leapt from crumbling bridges watching cityscapes turn to dust/Filming helicopters crashing in the ocean from way above,” he begins almost in a whisper. “Got the music in you baby, tell me why…You’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye,” goes the gorgeous hook that begs for some serious humming-along.

The jazzy Flash is perhaps the quietest number of the set while Sweet and Opera House are reminiscent of Mazzy Star. Truly and John Wayne ebb and flow with late-night yearning. Closer Young Dumb concludes the album with the lyrics salacious enough to make a grown man/woman blush.

Throughout the record, Greg Gonzalez’s delicate voice lends itself extremely well to the gently rippling melodies supplied by his bandmates Phillip Tubbs, Randy Miller and Jacob Tomsky. Their debut outing stays faithful to the crepuscular palette they first introduced us with Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby. Call it noir-pop or ambient-pop, this is a strong and unflinching collection of well-crafted songs dedicated to modern-day eroticism and intimacy.

THE PLAYLIST

Ibeyi/ Away Away

Ibeyi, the duo of Cuban-French twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, have teased their sophomore LP earlier this year with Lost In My Mind. They now return with Away Away, an uplifting mid-tempo jam that features empowering lines like “I don’t give up/I feel the pain/But I’m alive” and concludes with a Yoruba chant for the Orisha Aggayu, the orisha of volcanoes and ferryman believed to help people cross the river, all the while teaching them the importance of being strong, steady and levelheaded.

Portugal. The Man (feat Zoe Manville Rakim)/ So Young

So Young is the second single taken from Portugal. The Man’s just released eighth studio LP Woodstock. The track follows lead cut Feel It Still and finds John Gourley and his crew getting into a soft-rock mode with help from guest vocalists Zoe Manville and Rakim. “I don’t need to make amends/But I’m done going undercover,” Gourley croons, harmonising with Manville as the horns kick in. “One day the world may end/But there’s still plenty to discover/’Till then I’ll just pretend I don’t need another lover.”

Animal Husbandry/ In Trouble For Good

London-based Animal Husbandry has previously charmed us with his debut single The Good Times Are Killing Me and he’s set out to do the same with its follow-up In Trouble For Good. Built on an elastic bassline and skittering hi-hats, the five-and-a-half-minute song offers a brooding rumination on escapism inspired by the singer’s “heady trip to the tropics where [he] sat drinking rum out of a coconut with a beautiful woman”. “I say we stay in trouble for good/Just like we said we would,” he intimates to the lady in question, his tone both pleading and accusatory, matching the sullen sax-dominated outro.

Placebo/ Life’s What You Make It

UK alt rockers Placebo have just dropped a thought-provoking short film accompanying their new single, a cover of Talk Talk’s 1985 art-rock classic Life’s What You Make It. Lifted from their six-track EP of the same name, the song is set to the visual capturing the residents of Agbogbloshie, Ghana, living amid a massive e-waste dump. Timely and universally relevant, this cover further attests to the band’s knack for putting their signature alt-rock edge on beloved classics from Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill to Pixies’ Where Is My Mind.

Zola Jesus/ Exhumed

Nika Roza Danilova, the American singer-songwriter behind Zola Jesus, emerges from a period of loss and personal traumas with new cut Exhumed. Edging towards the industrial territory of her earlier releases, the track is fittingly dark and filled to the brim with menacing atmospherics, glitchy percussive beats and ominous string stabs. It’s noise-goth of the highest order if there ever was one. Zola Jesus’ forthcoming studio album Okovi (Slavic for “Shackles”) is slated for release in September, three years after 2014’s Taiga.