on my boombox: chromatics, kill for love

23 May

When lamenting “the state of music today,” musical purists often bemoan the lack of attention paid to full albums in our ADD, singles-obsessed culture. One could argue that this change set in motion as early as the start of MTV, and was perpetuated by everything from TRL to Napster to Youtube to Lana Del Rey.

I can’t claim to be a purist who completely shuns singles. I am a sucker for a catchy beat, and my short attention span sometimes leads me to only focus on an album’s best tracks. That said, there is simply no musical experience that compares to listening to a holistic, well-crafted album in its entirety, start to finish, every time. You know what I mean- those albums that are so good you wouldn’t even consider skipping around. These albums tell a story, and you wouldn’t pick up your favorite novel and just reading the 15th chapter, would you?

So when a band more or less forces you to listen to their album holistically, it better tell a damn good story. The songs should be so cleanly woven from start to finish that breaking it up would only detract from the art as a whole.

Recently, the Pacific Northwest-based band Chromatics has done just that with their latest album, Kill for Love. The album is a 90-minute opus, and it is available on Soundcloud as a “complete album blended together for your undisturbed listening pleasure.” Thankfully, the album backs up its command for your undivided attention with music that’s worth your undivided attention.

It made a lot of sense when I read that Chromatics’ front man Johnny Jewel contributed several tracks to the stellar soundtrack for the movie Drive, because¬† that’s exactly what this feels like: a soundtrack of synth. The album is heady and abstract but still entirely accessible. It also starts slow and builds for that whole 90 minutes, getting better and better with each track- it’s as if listeners are rewarded for their patience. Chromatics’ ability to draw pop gold (for example, the title track) from meandering, abstract synth-pop will undoubtedly draw comparisons to M83, and I reckon there are few fans of one who wouldn’t be fans of the other.

So, dear readers, I challenge you: for 90 whole minutes, listen to this album. Don’t skip around. Don’t hunt for the good parts. Don’t hit pause to watch various cat-infused Youtube videos and forget to keep listening. Do this successfully, and you will have just soaked up a truly beautiful piece of music. And who knows- maybe you’ll even recapture some of your desire to seek out not just catchy sounds and songs, but great albums. I long ago came to the conclusion that finding the latter is a far more rewarding experience.

Chromatics, Kill for Love


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