Their staple track ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ tells you everything there is to know about Cigarettes After Sex. With barely-there breathy vocals of undying devotion delivered atop the lightest of dream-pop sounds, it set the template for the indie-noir phenomenon that would follow.
It was also a slowburner – released in 2012 but taking some years to amass hundreds of millions of streams through crafty licensing, online word of mouth, and being synced to those wanky Youtube fan videos of sunsets or clips from Lost In Translation. With their 2017 self-titled debut album received as a triumph and their soft-focus black and white aesthetic lapped up by social media, the American group established themselves as the go-to shoegaze band for the Instagram generation.
Second album ‘Cry’ sees the band not stray too far from proven formula of slow and sexy sadness, but this time with a little more love thrown in and all held together by a more filmic approach. The soundtrack sensibility means that one track flows into another to create heavenly nine-song sigh. This is a headphones record if ever there was one, here just in time for Autumn.
Ambient opener ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ sets the mood for romance delivered with a gossamer touch, before ‘Kiss It Off Me’ introduces some more subtly poppy elements akin to The xx at their most tender, albeit more inclined to lazing by the beach rather than heading to the club. There might not be any bangers, but that’s not to say it’s not a record without compulsion – it’s driven by lust.
“Wanting your love to come into me – feeling it slow, over this dream, touch me with a kiss,” pines doe-eyed frontman Greg Gonzalez on the minimalist but aptly-titled ‘Heavenly’. The kaleidoscopic ‘Touch’ deals with the frustration of being besotted, while ’You’re the only Good Thing in My Life’ pictures his lover “posing as a Playboy centrefold”. Crikey. The mood never feels as sleazy as that, mind. As ‘Falling In Love’ captures, it’s more a record for those freeze frame moments of falling in love – the highs, the lows and the sensuality to boot.
As the warming notes of the unabashed love letter of closing ‘Pure’ fade out, you’re left with the dichotomy between the emotional scale that ‘Cry’ relies on and the lightness of touch with which it’s delivered. You will revisit this album, and as always, Cigarettes After Sex will slowly seduce you over time.