Lies, by LIES
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Release: March 31st, 2023.
Lies is the debut album of the homonymous-but-uppercase band LIES, the newest collaboration between cousins Mike and Nate Kinsella of American Football fame. This title marks their first collaboration on a full record since AF’s LP3, and their first stint as a duo. While the project is bound to be compared to their already vast discography, it strives to very much disrupt the familiarity that fans came to expect. Catchy guitar riffs and synthesizer loops announce the duo’s venture into this uncharted realm of pop music. Mike’s vocals might initially sound foreign amidst punchy keys and drum machines but, nevertheless, they are just as poignant as when stacked between cleaner tones.
The album opens with the striking hook of “Blemishes”, a perfect way to signal this deep dive into a new territory. The track relies heavily on its pronounced percussion and Nate’s ambient loopy keys. On the lower order of its texture, a scalar guitar riff seems to almost allude to the golden era of midwestern-emo. While the priority of the track is clearly to present the complex polyphony of the album, its lyrics are also responsible for shaping the overall themes of lust, longing, and jealousy.
The lyrical potent of Lies however is truly unleashed in “Echoes”. Drawing on feelings of guilt and resentment, the use of the second person prompts the listener’s own introspection. While the chorus seems almost like a word of reassurance, its last iteration ends with a much blunter message against self-deception (“In the absence of love unknown courage flourishes”, “If that’s not enough then steer clear of mirrors” – “Echoes”).
“Corbeau” is a hymn of carnal devotion. A leading acoustic guitar and ethereal backing vocals work in tandem to give the track an almost funereal quality. The whispery descriptions of human features are a clear callback to the opening track, but now tinged with an even more ominous sense of longing. “Resurrection” builds on these comments on permanence and change, but now with a more positive outlook. With cries of (“A resurrection of faith in my rapacious way” – “Resurrection”), the narrator celebrates his distance from his original, fractious qualities.
With its thematic promise nailed down, “Broken” leans down heavily on the album’s auditory experimentation. A fidgety xylophone is played throughout the track, broken (pun not intended) here and there by independent drumlines, vocal triads, and strings.
Reaching the exact middle of the album, “Camera Chimera” and “Summer Somewhere” sit perfectly on a scale. The former is an emotional build-up to a climax, ornate with atmospheric synths and clean guitars. The latter presents a much more stable and rhythmic melody, its lyrical delivery almost as natural as the instruments themselves.
The band’s influences really become apparent in the second half of the album. “No Shame” draws heavily on the melodic structures of early post-punk, and it wouldn’t feel out of place when put next to Depeche Mode or The Cure. “Rouge Vermouth”, the longest track of the album at 6:21, more closely resembles shoegaze classics. Fuzz-pedal-heavy guitars, echoey backing vocals, and propulsive drums sound straight out of 1980s UK and Ireland.
Just shy of its ending, “Knife” works as a thesis for the entire project. The rise to a crescendo and slow introduction of different instruments feels like a dissection of the project’s complex inner mechanics. During the song’s last third, vocals reach an ungodly rawness that eerily clash with the interpolated sounds of a clapping and whistling audience.
“Sympathetic Eyes” stands as the album’s true farewell to the listener. Accompanied by the last of contribution of Mike’s vocals, guitar tones are slowly taken over by audio recordings of a countdown and celebration, punctuated by fireworks.
The album ends with “Merely”, a calming piece that serves as an epilogue to the greater picture. It features an alternating dialogue of strings: from a strumming guitar to violin pizzicatos to harp arpeggios. On uneven intervals, the muffled voice of a woman interrupts the pleasant melody.
The last sounds heard are distancing steps that slowly fade amidst noises of static.
Lies is Nate and Mike’s unashamed playdate, an explosive catharsis of emotion and technique that simultaneously builds on and skews from their previous work. While many may see this endeavor as nothing more than a simple treat before the eventual return of their more conventional emo sounds, the Kinsella’s journey in this experiment should nonetheless be ornately nested in their oeuvre.
Reviewed on April 5th by Guilherme C. Tinoco
(All images were distributed by the artists as promotional material)