Even by judging the band’s frank name “Cigarettes After Sex”, it’s clear to the listener that frontman Greg Gonzalez is a bit of an open book – and the intimacy and delicacy of their self-titled debut album confirms this. As though it were his diary, Gonzalez takes the listener through ebbing and flowing waves of melancholia and lust – themes which are recurrent throughout the band’s discography.
Forming in 2012, the band rose to fame through online streaming services, as many do these days; but yet, their sound does not necessarily reflect this medium. Rather, it is soaked in nostalgia and is coloured black and white, creating an atmospheric listening experience as opposed to one of texture and diversity. Previous tracks from the band such as the notable “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” feature simple yet deeply emotive lyrics, thus setting a tone for Gonzalez’s writing: pure, uncomplicated romance. This style remains in their debut, and is what defines it as an album of hazy passion.
The album’s opening track ‘K’ is particularly notable for using this stunning simplicity. The echoing intro and Gonzalez’s whispering vocals illustrate a simplistic love story, straight out of a Hollywood film. The direct address to the woman in the chorus could, in theory, be anyone to the listener, making this a gorgeously overly-romantic ballad. Much of the album follows this idea similarly; “Each Time You Fall In Love” features the same light drum beat and hazy melody, but with much lonelier lyrics, clearly depicting a more sombre theme, but yet one with an underlying romantic undertone.
“Sweet” stands out as a track rich with emotion, perfectly fitting the album’s theme. Gonzalez finds the perfect medium between sexy and dreamy, with lyrics such as “You know that I’m obsessed with your body / But it’s the way you smile that does it for me” depicting a passionate affair. Similarly, “Opera House” paints the picture of a love-at-first-sight romance, another beautifully crafted track with a much more hushed tone.
However, despite these moments of gorgeous intimacy, some moments on the album are almost cringe-worthy and uncomfortable. On “Young & Dumb”, the final track of the album, Gonzalez sings “Well I know full well that you are / The patron saint of sucking cock”. Indeed, Gonzalez may think this is just a bit of tongue-n-cheek humour, but it sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the previously stunning lyricism featured on the album.
It would seem easy to some to compare Cigarettes After Sex to other ambient-indie acts such as Beach House and Mazzy Star, but this album nor do the band themselves entirely fit this comparison. Rather, it follows a very consistent structure whilst creating a different story for each track. Repetition is a slight issue for the band, however, but upon listening to the album as a whole the listener is caught in a trance of hazy dream-pop. Thus, as a whole this self-debut is a step into a lust-driven, incredibly romantic and poetic mind, and through showing the listener an almost anecdotal approach to this, a gorgeously rich and intense album is created.