March 6, 2016

TEST SPIN: The 1975 — I Like It When You Sleep

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“Can we stop talking about nothingness?” asks The 1975’s lead singer, Matty Healy, in a 2015 interview with The Guardian. In The 1975’s sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, released Feb. 26, the band makes a point of doing just that, searching for meaning and moving beyond the drugs and lust of their first album. Their self-titled debut was sprawling, upbeat and edgy but transparent: a bunch of teenagers trying to sound like adults. It felt pretentious, imitative. I Like It When You Sleep proves that The 1975 have grown into their sound.



The album opens with a callback to the first track of their debut album: a 90 second slow, reverberating introduction titled, creatively, “The 1975.” It begins with mumbles, a trippy synthesizer, and then, right as you get pulled in, silence so abrupt and absolute that it’s loud. Then the music returns, and the rest of the song matches word-for-word the original “The 1975.” What makes the parallel interesting is that the second edition is indisputably grander and more thoughtful. The harmonies are richer, the sound is more complex and the song portrays more of everything: melancholy, confusion, anticipation. Impressively, The 1975 has taken the same lyrics and same melody and given what was before a mediocre introduction new life.

This theme applies to the entire album. As a whole, I Like It When You Sleep is much more contemplative and sophisticated than The 1975. The first few songs are confident and thoughtful. While familiar references to drugs and girls are scattered through “A Change of Heart,” Healy speaks of them in past tense. He laments, “You used to have a face straight out of a magazine/Now you just look like anyone.” Aside from being a direct callback to “Robbers” on The 1975, where Healy opens by softly crooning, “She had a face straight outta magazine/God only knows but you’ll never leave her,” the song seems to be a realization that everything you’ve been living for — beauty, attraction, excitement — fades, and you just have to keep living.

I Like It When You Sleep transitions into moodier, more instrumental songs like the title track and “Lostmyhead” that lack the clever lyrics but retain the engaging, rich instrumentals of the rest of the album. This is where the sounds gets more experimental, more probing and less sure. The synth in “Lostmyhead” is slightly jarring, loud and wavering as Healy asks hesitantly, over and over again, “Can you see it?” After the thought and energy of the first few tracks, the slower pace is a mental break, setting up the last third of the album perfectly. From “Nana” to “She Lays Down,” a song about Healy’s mother’s postnatal depression and the only acoustic track on the album, the last few tracks of the album take their time, building in complexity and feeling. The end of the album is the end of an emotional journey. Regret and hope are introduced, complicated, doubted and somewhat resolved as you, the listener, simply wait, swept up in the rhythmic synth and Healy’s gentle vocals.

I Love It When You Sleep feels like a continuation of The 1975. The band is older, wiser and a little jaded, correcting the naïve notions of their debut. The trying-too-hard feeling isn’t there anymore. The album is perfectly paced to maximize the emotional ups and downs. It’s a miniature emotional rollercoaster: “She’s American” and “The Sound” are snappy and catchy, while “Paris” and “Nana” provoke thoughts about loss and mortality. In the final track, “She Lays Down,” Healy says, when the instrumentals end, “That was it.” And while he is presumably talking about the take, it’s a fitting ending. This album is everything The 1975 has to say about everything they can think of, and you finish the album feeling both emotionally exhausted and uplifted: that was it.