Well, this was highly annoying.
I have to be honest with you guys, there’s hardly anything in this album that I feel is genuinely worth saving or worth your time. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard by any means, I’ve definitely been put through a lot worse, but this is the kind of album that just makes me feel discouraged.
Tune-yards are an art-pop/indie-pop outfit that have (now) dropped four projects since 2009. Their most widely known release, Whokill, had a pretty satisfying set of sonic experiments with a folky twist that I really enjoyed; their follow-up project Nikki Nack had a more heavily synthetic pop sound. For the most part, up until this point they’ve been decently consistent and I had no reason to expect this from a new release.
This album reminds me so much of an off brand Dirty Projectors (for perspective, I’m not much of a Dirty Projectors fan either) stripped of any emotion with more obnoxious melodies and lyrics. The structures of most of these songs are so awkward, the choruses aren’t memorable (they’re so repetitive you’d expect them to stick, but nope), and the vocal performances border on terrible at some points. Where the songs aren’t far too cluttered, they just bore you to tears. None of the lyrical concepts behind these songs are engaging or make up for it in any way either.
If I’m going to come back to this album for any reason, it’ll most likely be for one of two songs. Heart Attack is a decent opener; the production is full of punchy/clicky sounds and soft drumming next to pianos that goes over pretty well. Coast to Coast is pretty simple in nature, but it’s got a nice, memorable bassline and an atmospheric soundscape, as well as these drifting synth leads that are pretty nice. Other than that, I really can’t safely say I enjoy any of these songs enough to talk about them. God, that’s depressing.
In terms of awkwardly produced cuts, nearly all of the elements in Now as Then feel totally disconnected from each other. It barely feels like a song; it seems more like just a bunch of random sounds mashed together strung out for four minutes with a lazy/underwhelming chorus slapped onto it. And sure, Look at Your Hands changes a lot throughout the song, but none of it feels that interesting, and it’s almost like they’re trying to make up for their utter mediocrity with these switchups. Pretty much the last hope for the remaining songs on the album to be decent end up feeling super boring and sleepy/forgettable; just look at Home, that seems to drone on forever with its lagging vocals and super lazy drumming and piano work.
Although you could argue that the vocals are consistently obnoxious throughout this entire album, they’re particularly bad in a few places. Just look at how inexcusably poor they are on Private Life. I don’t know how they didn’t see any problems with this after recording the song. And about ⅔ of the way through Home, they start to sound unbearably awkward and change pitch constantly. Again, it feels like they’re using this approach to try to make up for how boring the song is in the first place. And then the album kind of uses the same pattern of repetitive/obnoxious vocal samples to give off the impression it’s interesting in cuts like Honesty.
I usually don’t have MUCH of a problem with albums that don’t have lyrical value; I mean, it definitely adds to its impact when it does, but a project doesn’t have to be lyrically compelling to be great by any means. I start to have issues when the album is written so poorly that it’s noticeable even when you’re not trying to pay attention. Look at Your Hands and Honesty, for example, are so awfully written it’s distracting.
So this album is basic and lazily written, but honestly, I’d take that over lyrics that actively piss me off; take Colonizer for example. The song’s pretty much based on mocking someone for being white. Listen, I absolutely think we need to fight systematic racism and the white nationalist ideologies that our country was founded based on, which means listening to people of color and their experiences, but this song was kind of absurd. You should be angry with someone for being racist, not for the fact they’re white in the first place. Thought this was common knowledge. This is the type of thing makes liberals look bad and it makes me angry. The least it could’ve done was not actively piss me off with its shitty vocal performance and production too. This might be one of my least favorite songs I’ve heard in a while, but anyways, moving on. The album is essentially themeless, apart from this song and a few other vague references to this racial issue thing in ABC123 and Now as Then, but none of it is well-executed. Period. Anywhere that had good intentions was screwed over by shitty writing. Cool. Thanks.
I was set on giving this album a 4/10, but fuck it. I gave Humanz a 4 last year. I gave Beach Fossils a 4. I gave Broken Social Scene a 4. This is worse. I never want to listen to this again. Maybe I actively hate it more because I feel like it tries painfully hard to cover up the fact it sucks and sort of works if you’re not paying attention. But I genuinely feel this album has close to nothing to offer and doesn’t really deserve more than a 3.5.
(sorry for being a cynical asshole)