Review Summary: With a lush and cohesive debut EP, The 1975 prove to be a promising pop band with only a few kinks to work out.
The 1975, an indie band from Manchester, have shrouded themselves in anonymity since the release of their first single, "Sex", in 2011. The aura of mystery suits their music to a T; Facedown
comes from the XX
school of ambient disaffected pop, while drawing from bands like M83 and Foals for vocal and guitar cues. The result is a promising 4-song EP that may be a bit slow at times but remains remarkably cohesive for a first release.
The first track, "Facedown", is drenched in watery production and group vocals, with guitar and piano swirling around it. This is a gorgeous track that is especially impressive considering it's the first one the band has ever officially released. It's clear that this is a band who know exactly who they want to be and what they want to sound like, but also that they know exactly how to pull it off. It helps that the balance, mix, and overall production is absolutely flawless, which continues throughout the rest of the EP. Spiritually, it's the most similar to the third song, "Anti-Christ", a track that sounds very reminiscent of M83's work on "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming", if a little gloomier and less bombastic. That's not to say it's a boring or plodding song; The 1975 clearly know what they're doing musically (having played together for more than a decade), and the buildup to the track's conclusion sounds anything but amateurish.
"The City", the EP's only real uptempo track, sounds a bit out of place among the gloom and ambiance, but still proves that this band is capable of creating varied and interesting pop music. The synth is still prominent and other than the driving beat of the track, a drum part that sounds like a heavy drum machine, it's instrumentally consistent with the rest of the EP. However, it's tonally more close to a band like Bloc Party or Foals than the XX, which leaves some questions about the direction the band will take on their full-length. If one took "Anti-Christ" and "The City" and played them without knowing they were by the same artist, they probably wouldn't realize it's the same band. The singer's voice is a little bit whiney, but the song is catchy and fun to listen to.
The closer is the only clunker of the bunch. "Woman" aims to be the dramatic conclusion to the EP, stripping away the drums leaving only the vocals and the atmospheric synth. However, instead of proving that the band is more than just a product of lush instrumentation and atmosphere, it does the opposite. While The 1975 are clearly more cohesive than most bands are after one release, they're not fundamentally strong enough that they can channel a Jeff Buckley and assume that they'll succeed just the same. While the basic songwriting is solid, it's the flourishes and instrumental beauty that lift the band up from just another indie band to one worth watching, and if they deviate from that they could find themselves limited. Still, Facedown is a generally gorgeous EP that will appeal to anyone who enjoys ambient pop music.