It’s always been difficult to quantify exactly what the 1975 are. Are they a pop band? Are they a boy band? Are they an indie-pop-electronic-boy band? They have never really fit into any particular category, but instead straddled the line somewhere in between. On their sophomore LP, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, they continue to blur these lines. All of the classic 1975 musical elements you have come to expect, know and love are present, but they have been amped up in many ways, diversified even further. With a run time of well over an hour, I like it when you sleep… is a long and breathtaking journey that hits all of the right notes without ever feeling drawn-out. It’s an incredible accomplishment for a seasoned band, much less a band still in the early stages of their career.
The album loosely unfolds into three parts, with strong emphasis on the word “loosely.” In fact, the entire album transitions beautifully and seamlessly from one part to the next. Part 1 allows the band’s poppier sensibilities to shine through, whereas Part 2 finds them experiment with synthesizers and 808s. In the last and final part, they bring out their acoustic guitars for “Nana” and “She Lays Down.” These stylistic shifts may seem jarringly different and bloated with filler at first, but they manage to pace and give structure to an otherwise disjointed album.
Picking up where they left off, the band begin the album with a reworked version of the self-titled track found on their debut. If you listened to their last album, you will find it instantly recognizable, as it’s quite similar to the original. It does, however, do a good job of straying just far enough away from its predecessor to highlight its differences, while preparing you for a different album experience altogether. As such, it is only fitting that the second song on the album, “Love Me,” hits you with both flash and surprise.
The song marks one of the most drastic stylistic shifts from their debut. Bordering on glam-rock, it’s filled with infectious hooks and disco-esque guitar effects. Admittedly, this song probably took the longest to grow on me, but has since racked up a sizeable play-count in my music library. It’s follow-up “UGH!,” one of my personal favourite cuts from the album, is the listener’s first look into Healey’s ever-expanding vocal arsenal. Here, he shows his edgier side, particularly during the chorus when he shouts “I’m not giving it up again.” Overall, it’s a supremely catchy song replete with playful electronic bleeps and bloops that fade in and out on both highs and lows, all performed over an infectious bass line. Together, these songs paint a clear picture of the first part of the album. Granted, they do take things down a level on “Change of Heart,” before picking things back up again for “She’s American.”
On the album’s fifth track, “If I Believe You,” the band take a big hit into left-field. Somewhere between electronic, gospel and R&B, it’s another great example of the band’s ability to step out of their creative box. It’s a beautiful number that works as a perfect sequitur into Part 2 of the album, which is where the 1975 “charm,” as I like to call it, starts to show itself in full force. Some critics would (and I have seen them) argue that some of these songs could be nixed from the album, but I truly believe this is what makes The 1975 so unique and appealing. They’re willing to write songs like “Please Be Naked” and “Lostmyhead” that act as nothing more than beautifully written interludes. The songs stand on their own as largely instrumental numbers, but when taken in context, they’re indispensable. In fact, I would argue that they earn their keep simply for being perfect transitory songs into the astonishing “Somebody Else.”
The third and final part of the album starts around “The Sound,” which is one of the catchier songs on the album and has already seen its fair share of radio play. It leads beautifully into “This Must be My Dream,” and the final three ballads. By the time “She Lays You Down” comes through your speakers, you’ve been through a lot as a listener. The song acts as a great outro, while giving the listener time to focus on Healy’s paired-down vocals. Healey even closes the song by quipping “that’s it,” as he loosens his grip on his guitar, running his fingers down the fret board, almost reaffirming to the listener that the 1975 have given everything they have and that the show is over—even if you wish it could keep going.
At well over an hour run time, there’s something for everyone on I like it when you sleep…. There’s a chance you might not like everything you hear here, and that’s fine. But those of you that take the time to dive in headfirst will be rewarded for it. It’s a long, highly layered and expertly produced journey that rewards you with every subsequent listen. It’s a testament to their creativity as artists and their ability to think outside of the box. At the album’s close, you are left wanting more of this unique listening experience, and it’s clear that only these four Brits can truly provide it.
The 1975 set out to create an album that did pop music justice but didn’t fall victim to the usual pop music tropes. They accomplished this goal and significantly more. Sure, the album is not perfect, and may not satisfy everyone. But after all is said and done, you can’t help agree they made something special, if not unforgettable. It is a breathtaking journey that is distinctly unique and distinctly 1975. This is an album that will stand the test of time. It will be as great 20 years from now as it is today. It is the first must-listen album of 2016.