Review Summary: Confessional songwriting and stark instrumentation inspired by the realization that we'll all die someday
Baths is the moniker of American electronic musician Will Wiesenfeld, who rose to decent fame with his strange, light brand of experimental electronica in 2010 on his debut "Cerulean." Two years later, he's back with "Obsidian," an album which takes a much darker approach to the whimsical pop music that helped make him popular. Now, the lyrics are more confessional and the instrumentation is more barren than before. What space is left empty by the music is filled with deeply personal lyricism, on which Wiesenfeld holds nothing back. His introspective professions and longings are to be noted, as they show great maturity and talent. It's a shame, however, that the album in its entirety just doesn't remain interesting enough.
'Worsening' and 'Miasma Sky' are the first two tracks, and they're absolutely great. The former is a great piece of jangly, distorted electro-pop with a chorus of haunting falsetto vocals. The latter is a faster-paced, more straightforward song with a more danceable feel. Unfortunately, very few of the remaining eight tracks are that noteworthy for me. I do like 'Incompatible' a bit, what with its James Blake-esque soulful piano/electronic mash-up and delightfully weird lyrics: "First boyfriend/You'll live in my house and we'll share a toilet seat." There is a slightly damaged feel in the song, reflected by both its instrumentation and somewhat self-loathing lyrics about sex and failure (and sharing a toilet seat, but that doesn't really help prove my point here).
As Wiesenfeld commented on the album, "Obsidian" was inspired by an illness the musician was struggling with, giving the songs their melancholic vibe. The dark shadow of mortality hangs low over the album, and the fear of death is always palpable though the album's lyrics may not always directly mention it. Though the album feels slightly stale at times, it is also remarkably fresh, in the sense that it bears its soul quite poignantly and unabashedly. Wiesenfeld certainly could have made "Obsidian" purely depressing, miserable, glum...the topics of death and mortality feature prominently. But, to his credit, he approaches these topics in a way that is refreshing but not overwhelmingly interesting. Yes, I grew a bit bored with this album halfway through, but I can't deny that it is a wonderfully frank look at death from a man who was damn near close to it.