The Drums, solo project from NY-based Jonny Pierce, has recently released his new 12″ album, Brutalism, which follows the debut record, Abysmal Thoughts. An album which focuses on being vulnerable in relationships, and how this can backfire when in those with people that let their fears and insecurities dictate, Brutalism is as open as Jonny Pierce, and for that alone, is an interesting record.
The Drums’ Abysmal Thoughts was well-received in 2017, and two years later, The Drums have gone from these thoughts to Brutalism, this somewhat intimate collection of tracks. Written and recorded between Upstate New York and a studio in Stinson Beach, Brutalism to some degree documents a hurtful divorce and an incredibly difficult stint living solely in Los Angeles. Facing these issues head on, Pierce wrote, recorded, and co-produced this record in dealing with his demons. Whilst reckoning with his depression in therapy, the making of Brutalism became an extension of self-care for Pierce, openly admitting his thoughts and demons.
Rooted in an emotional rawness, it’s key that his pop songs have hints of warmth and energy to counter-balance the lyrics, clearly entrenched in hurt. He brought in Chris Coady (Beach House, Future Islands, Amen Dunes) to mix it, and gave up some aspects of his control, it’s the first Drums’ record with a live drummer. And listening to this record, I am very much into this collaborative approach, it certainly works for Brutalism.
Despite not being pop songs particularly to my taste, I can certainly appreciate the technical and lyrical work of Pierce with this album. Pretty Cloud, multi-layered, synth-heavy with lyrics such as “there are days when you spread yourself so thin across the atmosphere I can’t see you anymore,” this opener does precisely that, suggestive of a relationship coming to an end. Body Chemistry, with it’s mix of synth and bass, is about coping with poor mental health, and perhaps not making the right decisions. 626 Bedford Avenue is a track about being vulnerable in relationships and reflection, a wonderfully-crafted pop song, and stand-out track on this emotional rollercoaster. Title track, Brutalism, is pacey, and has hints of the eighties in it’s synth, focussing on what he would be willing to do to amend his relationship.
I Wanna Go Back begins with a field recording of waves by the sea, suggestive of pontification, a heartache of a stripped-down, and at times discordant, pop-song. Nervous is definitively different in that it’s culminated by mere vocals and acoustic guitar, and evocatively expresses his anxieties. Blip of Joy is precisely that, the sounds of someone perhaps starting to come out the other side of a break up, and renders the album more listenable.
Brutally honest, raw and yet, with enough warmth to keep you listening, Brutalism is a great record, despite not my favourite genre. But as pop goes, Jonny Pierce keeps it unpredictable, inducing multiple feelings throughout the LP, and for that highly commendable.
Brutalism is out now, via Anti-Records.