Search The Line of Best Fit
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Cigarettes After Sex return with X's formulaic intimate ballads

Release date: 12 July 2024
Cigarettes After Sex Xs cover
11 July 2024, 09:00 Written by Michael Hoffman

When you put on a Cigarettes After Sex album, you know what you’re getting.

Greg Gonzalez’s hushed vocals floating over lush, reverb-heavy guitar, and a hazy dream pop-scape that is nothing short of hypnotic. Cigarettes After Sex have not deviated from their familiar sound with X’s, delivering another set of songs that more or less could fit on any of their previous albums.

X’s focuses on the arc of one love story from its bright beginnings in the first half of the album to the melancholic retrospection of it all in the second half. The vision seems more focused here than with previous efforts, as Gonzalez continues to craft songs like a soundtrack for a film, only this time the imagistic terrain becomes a series of scenes filled with bittersweet memories of each stage of that longer relationship — one that didn’t last but is represented in the bittersweet reflection after the fact.

Gonzalez’s work is indebted to the neo-noir of David Lynch’s surreal melodrama Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet. Just like Julee Cruise, who sang her eventual hit “Falling” in one of the first episodes of Twin Peaks, and whose 1989 album, Floating Into the Night, became a hallmark of dream pop, Cigarettes After Sex continue that legacy to some degree. It’s easy to imagine the band performing at one of the bars in the show, just as Julee Cruise did, or at least becoming the soundtrack to a steamy meet-up between James Hurley and Donna Hayward.

Gonzalez’s songs are, at their heart, big pop songs with catchy choruses, wrapped in his dreamy, noir aesthetic, just as they have always been. However, songs like “Tejano Blue” and “Ambien Slide” are more intentionally layered with drums that are a subtle nod to the Tejano music of El Paso, Texas, where Gonzalez grew up, specifically set to a repetitive hi-hat and kick drum cascara beat, only way slowed down in true CAS fashion.

Greg Gonzalez writes from a diaristic place of honesty, especially about the intimacy behind closed bedroom doors, and at one point, he termed his songs as “erotic lullabies,” only this time around, all of it seems to be toned down - and perhaps for the better. The lyrics, especially the more explicit ones, are void of the more overtly (often objectifying) erotic material found in earlier recordings (see “Kiss It off Me” and “Hentai” from Cry, or “Young & Dumb from their debut). Instead, Gonzalez focuses on an unravelling relationship, and the tender, fleeting images of infatuation and eventual heartbreak that hover like ghosts in each song. Lyrically, “Tejano Blue” contains Gonzalez’s brash contrast of the suggestive mixed with the sentimental, as with many tracks from previous work (“We wanted to fuck with real love / wanted it sweet, so pure and warm” followed by “We wanted to fuck like all the time / and when you got back from your flight / it was the first thing we did”) . “Baby Blue Movie” is a reference to Canadian softcore adult films from the 70s, and really, it seems like Gonzalez has always been concerned with creating a sort of baby blue movie within the confines of pop music.

The band doesn’t deviate from their sound, similar to other dream pop acts like Beach House, but instead continue to refine their vision with more clarity, bigger baselines, and a continued promise to envelop you in their hazy, romantic pop noir. It’s that kind of consistency that fans have come to expect; still, one can’t help but wonder how many more releases Cigarettes After Sex will sustain this sound before they risk consistency for experimentation within their artistic boundaries.

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