The Drums’ first album as a Jonny Pierce solo project is a tightly wound, intimate record that feels deliberately smaller than their previous projects, fitting given that it’s their first crafted in a single headspace. ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ is still a frenetic blend of surf rock and new wave, but it also feels daring, languid at some moments and breakneck at others. Similar to Dave Longstreth’s Dirty Projectors solo record from earlier this year, ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ bears a strong connection to The Drums’ past while acknowledging that there’s simply no going back.
The musical language of The Drums is still the same but feels leaner and more efficient. Opening tracks ‘Mirror’ and ‘I’ll Fight For Your Life’ are nearly perfect stacks of micro-melodies that allow you to either pull on a single thread (like a hammering synth line or thumping drums) or let the entire song wash over, guided by Jonny’s reverb-drenched vocals. He gives himself more heavy lifting to do as a vocalist on this record, and largely proves capable, especially on the harmony-heavy title track.
Given the title, you can probably already tell that ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ is far from sunny, but what Jonny manages to do is craft a record that is somber and reflective yet also thrilling. ‘Your Tenderness’ is heart-wrenching, but its phaser synths and disembodied saxophone line also make it one of the album’s most surreal numbers. The heartbeat bass thump on ‘Heart Basel’ is a great onomatopoetic touch, and hearing Jonny stretch his naturally high voice into a falsetto is splendid.
‘Abysmal Thoughts’ might be Jonny Pierce picking up the rubble of The Drums, but its clear that he’s found a new way to arrange the components.