Cover photo courtesy of The 1975
Review by Daven McQueen
The 1975’s latest release, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, sports a title rivaled in length only by the album’s duration: at seventy-five minutes, it’s a hefty listen. Frontman and band leader Matt Healy explained to Billboard that the mouthful of a title is “something [he] said to a girlfriend.” A bit pretentious? Perhaps. It’s certainly not the first time the band or Healy has faced that accusation. Nonetheless, their sophomore album does not disappoint: it sports a diversity of sound and honesty of lyrics that, while not particularly groundbreaking, is distinctly beautiful (and probably aware of it).
I like it when you sleep kicks off on a familiar note, with “The 1975,” the same eponymous track that started their first album. The band then launches into a short series of those electronic and pop-rock blends that so defined their previous release―tracks which are catchy, but lack any other sort of unifying feature. Here, you’ll find Healy’s signature snarky lyrics. “You took a picture of your salad / and put it on the internet,” he says of a past flame in “A Change of Heart,” adding yet another clever criticism to his repertoire. His sarcastic style is evident in this first section, but that’s nothing new. These songs will have you humming along, but won’t grab you by the hand and drag you into the music.
The album takes a gospel music-inspired turn with “If I Believe You”―a soulful, jazzy track about struggling with a lack of faith―and from there, it begins to take off. After “Please Be Naked,” a four minute instrumental, the songs become slower, softer, and more meaningful. Apart from the fast-paced and slightly distracting interlude of previously-released single “The Sound,” this half of the album is decidedly less gimmicky and more honest.
There is “The Ballad of Me and My Brain,” in which Healy laments the lack of privacy that comes with fame. There is the title track, a gentle electronic song complete with breathy, repeated vocals. And, most strikingly, there are “Nana” and “She Lays Down,” two emotional acoustic tracks that sound almost as if they belong to a different band. But Healy’s distinctive vocals run gracefully through both, and the simple, sincere lyrics make these songs not only the most startling on the album, but also two of the best.
This is all clearly new territory for The 1975. In an interview with When the Gramophone Rings, Healy mentions that “on the first record, [he] hid behind a character of sorts,” but that “now [he] hides behind his music.” The latter part of the album makes this evident. Say goodbye to the mouthy, mildly offensive frontman of the band’s eponymous album; he has been replaced by an artist who, with wit and thoughtfulness, has immersed himself in his music.
Though the album as a whole is solid, it’s fair to say that it’s also disjointed. The shifts in tone are sudden, the different styles are many, and the ordering of tracks is questionable at times. But then again, I like it when you sleep deals heavily with self-discovery, and what is self-discovery but a messy, disorganized process? It’s realistic that the band decided to experiment, and to do so liberally. And even as they throw musical curveballs, The 1975 is not pushing away veteran listeners with this album. Because amidst the acoustic ballads, electronic dance tunes, and typical pop hits, there remains something unapologetic about the music―and that, if nothing else, is something fans will recognize.