Friday, March 29, 2019

Album Review: Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

The buzz around this album was such that it was always going to be tough for Billie Eilish to live up to expectations, and if it's not quite the masterpiece that the hype makes it out to be, it's still a solid debut from an artist with a singular vision, bold production choices and more importantly some very good songs.

Conceptually, this is like shock-rock for millennial clubbers. If you've ever wondered what kind of music April Ludgate from Parks & Recreation would be playing if she'd found a synthesiser, first of all: why would you? And secondly, WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (all caps intentional) is your answer.

The album starts off with a sample of studio dialogue that segues into the first song bad guy (no caps intentional, as on all the song titles), a bass-heavy dark dance track with whispered vocal harmonies and manic synth interventions that ends on a heavy breakdown and sets the mood for the rest of the record.

xanny is a sick sick lullaby with more breathy vocals and cool drum fills. The track takes off when the piano enters and adds another layer to the spare arrangements.

you should see me in a crown is like a Lorde track with a psychotic twist. Again, the vocals are soft and ethereal but with an acerbic edge.

all good girls go to hell fuses dark EDM with a somewhat jazzy bistro melody.

wish you were gay is a pretty ballad that starts off with straightforward arrangements until the usual production kicks in: booming bass and electronic beats over minimal accompaniment. Billie's voice finally gets a little more dynamic, but still overall very neurasthenic.

when the party's over is another gorgeous ballad with choir-like harmonies and moody piano. 

8 starts with an unsettling child voice over happy acoustic guitar and country type fiddle until the sound is taken over by the sempiternal electronic flourishes: a sick overdriven bass and electronic beat.

my strange addiction is a hazy disco tune, reminiscent of early 90's Kylie Minogue if she had been on ketamine.

By the next song bury a friend, the style is getting to be repetitive but thankfully the quality of the songwriting and inventive production choices help the record to not become boring.

ilomilo is another lo-NRG disco tune with great hooks and a danceable beat, if your version of dancing is swaying along nonchalantly.

The dramatic, piano-driven ballad listen before i go offers the album's best vocal performance: Bille allows herself to break away slightly from her monotonous style and go deep and low in a few instances.

i love you is a ballad with acoustic guitars and features few electronics apart from some soundscapes. It's a melancholy track but offers very little of the album's trademark darkness, it's a nice little bubble of light in otherwise moody record..

goodbye is a pretty if unmemorable epilogue to a rather monotonous album where no song really takes off, and as a result there is no release from the tension created. But monotonous doesn't mean tedious or boring, it just means tat Billie Eilish has found her groove and is sticking to it.

The productions style actually hides the fact that the tunes are pretty well-crafted and at several points during the album, I found myself wishing those same songs were played with more traditional arrangements. But then again, at forty, I am not the target audience and that comment probably says more about me than about the quality of the album. It's a very dramatic, almost theatrical record and it will be interesting to see how Billie Eilish choses to interpret those songs in a live setting, both sonically and conceptually.

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