• Darby VanDeVeen

'Notes on a Conditional Form' Has Something for Everyone

The 1975 released their much anticipated fourth studio album, ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’ on Friday, May 22. The album explores many different genres of music, ranging from rock on “People” to the hip hop sounds seen on “Shiny Collarbone.” No matter what you’re looking for, chances are this album has it. For this review, I wanted to speak a little bit about each track just to show how different each song is from the others. 

It opens with a powerful message about climate change and the state of our plant, read by Greta Thunberg. The 1975 have opened their last 3 albums with short songs, each one consisting of the same lyrics, but with a different sound each time. Notes on a Conditional Form is different. Thunberg’s impassioned five minute speech leads into the guitar-heavy “People.” With such a political start, I wasn’t really sure where the album was headed, but right after, a musical interlude signaled a change of pace for the rest of the piece.

“Frail State of Mind” is a dreamier sounding track, and seems to be a commentary on mental health. After another interlude, the 1975 head into a stripped track that delves into the minute social interactions that happen at house parties. “The Birthday Party” has lyrics that tell a story of this hypothetical party and all of the different conversations the singer had.

Changing up the sound yet again, “Yeah I Know” feels otherworldly in the sense of the reverbing vocals. Short lines punctuate the lyrics and make them stick; “Hit it, share that shit.” 90s boyband pop gets made over by the 1975 in “There Because She Goes.” It’s a sweet song about two lovers leaving each other, but only for a short period of time, and the toll it takes on both of them.

“Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” is one of the only collaborations the 1975 has ever done, with the second verse being sung by Phoebe Bridgers (who also features on “Roadkill” and “Playing on My Mind”). The acoustic guitar gives the alternative band a new way to express themselves with a new sound.

“Roadkill” had me smiling through the song simply because the chorus is so catchy. An upbeat tune with comical lyrics tie the song together. One of my favorites on the album has to be “Me & You Together Song.” With a classic alternative guitar sound and the fact that it was about a boy in love with his friend since they were kids. It sounds like it could be in a teen coming of age movie and I love that. “I fell in love with her in stages my whole life” Matty Healy sings on the track.

I thought that “I Think There’s Something You Should Know” had similar instrumentals to “Frail State of Mind” in the beginning, and similar messages about mental health. I really like this track as well and know I’ll be listening to it in the future. “Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied” had really cool vocals in the beginning, sounding like a chorus of people singing. Drum beats in the back of a piano which added depth to the track and gave it a hip hop sound.

The Temptations’ sample on “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) added to the boy band feel of the song. While it was more mellow than other pop songs, the way the vocals are put together and spoken gives it a certain feel. “Shiny Collarbone” was not one of my favorite songs on the album, but I have to say I’m impressed by how well the 1975 can include hip hop inspired songs on their album.

Healy sings about intimacy in online relationships in “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know).” The uptempo single used horns in the background to give it an 80s feel. Released as a single, it has gained popularity and has become a fan-favorite. We return to acoustic sounds on “Playing On My Mind,” in which the lyrics are the main focus of the track. Lyrics like “let’s find something to watch then watch our phones for half the time” and “but i don’t get my clothes online cause i get worried about the fit/that rule don’t apply concerning my relationships,” are honest and speak to the existential questions brought up.

“Having No Head” was one of the most interesting songs on the record. At first, it is a simple track, similar to something playing in the background of a meditation video. THen the calm turns into complex beats and rhythms about halfway through. The production of this track was precise and electronic, before returning to the original stillness. “What Should I Say” also has a cool sound, but nothing like the previous song. Messages about social media come through, but it just didn’t have the same impact as other songs.

The last three songs were some of my favorites of the album. “Bagsy Not in the Net” uses orchestral strings to pull together a song about wanting to die at the same time as your partner. If I had to pick one song to encapsulate the album’s sound as a whole, I would pick this one. As for “Don’t Worry,” the piano drew me in and the duet between Healy and his father made me shed a few tears. This was a song that was repurposed for the album since it was written by Healy’s father in the late 80s/early 90s for Healy’s mother, who was suffering from postnatal depression. It brought a smile to my face and quickly became one of my favorites.

Last but not least, I had a lot of thoughts on the last track, “Guys.” I loved the dedication to the band at the end and the upbeat music. Read more about it here.

Overall, I was very impressed by the fragments of emotions and sound that were captured in this album. This has been my favorite release by the 1975 yet and I am excited to see what their fifth studio album has in store. Be sure to stream “Notes on a Conditional Form” here.

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