By Jason Herring, October 20, 2015 —
Death, loneliness and fear of love are topics that fill Are You Alone? Majical Cloudz’ latest album of mournful melancholy. The Montreal art-pop duo consists of vocalist Devon Welsh and keyboardist Matthew Otto, whose instrumentals back Welsh’s smooth baritone.
This occasionally lends tracks a haunting atmosphere, but it usually just makes them feel incomplete.
The other issue with minimalistic instrumentation is that Welsh’s voice isn’t strong enough to stand alone. He’s not a bad singer, but it’s very noticeable anytime his voice wavers.
The album gets off to a decent start with “Disappeared,” where Welsh sings openly and poetically about accepting a lost relationship. But he abandons this attitude on the following “Control,” a whiny song where Welsh wallows in self-pity after a break-up.
These lyrics flood the rest of Are You Alone?. Every track seems to be about Welsh’s fear of love, his fear of being alone, his fear of death and a general fear of living. After listening to him whine about his insecurities for 40 minutes, I understand why all the girls in those songs broke up with him.
“I want to kiss you inside a car crashing, and we will both die laughing,” Welsh croons on “Silver Car Crash,” a song reminiscent of The Smith’s classic “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” But while Morrissey’s car crash fantasy feels tragically romantic, Welsh’s take on the concept just comes across as creepy.
References to British alt-pop icons don’t end there. On the album’s title track, Welsh repurposes lyrics from Radiohead’s forlorn “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” After listening to it, I just wanted to listen to the far-better song Majical Cloudz is referencing.
Welsh poses a question towards the end of that track — “What’s the point of a sad, sad song?” Personally, I listen to sad songs when I’m feeling down as a way to let myself process my feelings. Sad songs resonate with me and let myself experience those negative feelings.
But I can’t imagine listening to the sad songs on Are You Alone? under the same circumstances. Majical Cloudz try to fabricate that atmosphere through intimate lyrics and sparse backings, but ultimately just come off as insufferable.