Review Summary: Error 404: Thrills not found
It really is no secret that no community loves comparison more than the music community. That may be something of a shallow, sweeping generalization, but in the last 10 years alone, a number of artists such as Adele, Mumford and Sons and even Muse (despite having been around for a previous decade prior) have broken enough ground to have critics and music fans in general looking for new artists to compare them to. Just look at how many people were quick to label Sam Smith "the male Adele" when they broke out with "Stay With Me". Just look at how many people were desperate to cash in on the Mumford and Sons style of quickly strummed acoustic guitars and banjos. And also look at just how many pop artists are trying to jump on a trend seemingly started by Melanie Martinez, of pop music influenced by horror imagery or use children's nursery rhymes or music to comment on deep seated psychological issues of some sort. Arguably the most successful of which being Billie Eilish, a teenage singer whose best facet has been her muted sound and horror inspired imagery. So it's only inevitable that people are looking for the "male Billie Eilish". And it almost seems as if one 19 year old Danny "Sub Urban" Maisonneuve is aiming for this. If one listen to his viral hit single from 2019 "Cradles" is any indication, he seems to be aiming for a mix of Eilish's subdued sound and Melanie Martinez's imagery, and all feelings on said single aside, this certainly would make for one fascinating aesthetic.
Which is why it's such a shame that despite its title, his debut EP titled Thrill Seeker
is shockingly void of thrills. While mercifully short at almost 20 minutes, it hardly stays in your head long enough to justify its loquaciously worded press release from Warner Music (which, by the way, reads a suspicious lot like Maisonneuve himself wrote it). It is so unmemorable, in fact, that I am writing this review not even ten minutes after my third listen to it to retain as much of it as I can before my brain decides to dispose of it entirely.
Despite this, the EP gets off to an actually solid start with "Freak", which, apart from just sounding like Twenty Øne Pilots' "Heathens" with extra steps, is actually a fairly inspired tune and possibly the only tune to stay in your head when the EP is over. Lyrically focused on the theme of a carnival of sorts, its carnival-inspired synth hook, with REI AMI's creepy "ooh na na, na na" croons garnishing it make for a beautifully creepy atmosphere, REI AMI's verse itself is the highlight, despite some rather questionable word choices ("Freak or Friday Night"...?), but herein lies the problem: it's also this moment where we learn the harsh truth surrounding this EP: Maisonneuve himself just plain isn't interesting enough to make his own music work. I've already kind of called him a discount Billie Eilish, and as hard as I'm trying to avoid resorting to that comparison, it's difficult to not do when his singing style is apparently the same. Which is what makes his moments of truly letting loose on tracks like "Cirque" and select moments of mercifully short Ukulele ballad "When the Flies Fell" feel wasted. He just doesn't have much if a personality. Which is even more of a shame considering his background, of having grown up experiencing bipolar disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder, and as much as I hate the notion that mental illness makes people creative, such a background would make one think that SOMETHING truly manic or disturbingly interesting would come out of this.
The remainder of the good parts on this EP are sadly limited to select parts of songs, and the next song, "Cliche". It's fittingly titled, with its chord progression sounding like Cold War Kids' "Part of the Night", but it makes up for it with excellent synth riffs, appropriate distortion and a fairly hooky chorus of "Cliche's everywhere/But we don't care/But we don't care at all"
. And sadly, the rest of the EP is either a pale copy of things you've already heard, but better (I would probably feel something hearing "KMS" if I probably hadn't heard it on pretty much every sadboi rap track to come out in the past 3 years), or just pure cringe. The latter seems to permeate the majority of the rest, with "Spring Fever" sounding like something even Troye Sivan would think twice before releasing as a B side, and that's before I can even address its seemingly homophobic lyrics where he tries to pressure a lesbian to fuck him. Lovely, what a charming guy to bring home to mom and pop. And I also literally forgot "Isolate" existed until I started typing this existence, probably because it sounds almost exactly the same as "Freak", but with more distortion. It's exactly things like this why stuff like the entire second half of "Cirque" feel like such a wasted opportunity. The liberal amounts of jazzy piano, marimba, and such that section are infinitely more interesting than any of the whole songs on this EP.
I usually try as hard as I can to not assert my dominance over the reader in my reviews, but I'll break that rule just once, because it is a new year: please, this year, let's leave rewarding imitation in the past. This EP is the antithesis of what people who try to look for new and original sounds in music stand for, and so long as we continue to reward worse versions not things we have already heard before, it's stuff like this that will win out over a singer who will break ground in the same way the deservingly popular artists of the 2010s did.