Cigarettes After Sex could break a thousand hearts at once if it wanted to.
Even the name Cigarettes After Sex (CAS) conjures images of a band that will be in some way bleakly experimental, ambient or Jazz-infused. If those were your thoughts, then the band does not disappoint. Latest single K. is five minutes of heart-twisting, emotion-tickling ambient pop that will either dig its way into your mind or bring you to tears. It is almost like The XX after a devastating heartbreak.
The skill in CAS’ songwriting is that, despite eliciting such an emotional response, this is not an explicitly sad song. In reality, it’s a rather sultry offering that seems to stand on the borderline of emotional and emotionless. The noir soundscape, from subdued drum rhythms and crawling basslines to atmospheric synths and echoey guitars, creates a gloomy sense of loss, but the voice sounds completely void of emotion. It’s an unusual contradiction, and one that inexplicably works wonders.
In fact, the contradiction of emotionless emotion is a very subtle and genius reference back to the title. Even though the title itself is not a direct reference to this, it reflects the complications of receiving a message that simply reads “K“. It is a single letter that gives the surface impression of absolutely no emotion whatsoever, but there is usually an underlying negative emotion behind it.
K. is one of the most genius and flawless releases of 2016. It is bleak, sombre and weary, but arguably the most enjoyable sense of sadness it is possible to feel.