Released at the beginning of the month via Moshi Moshi, all cats are beautiful’s latest EP the things we made provides a heartfelt, off-kilter take on pop in the twenty first century with a beautifully developed sense of melody and texture. Where more self-conscious artists might have slipped into irony or even parody when playing with genre in the way this record does, the honesty and vulnerability of the lyrics instead steer it down a far more rewarding path; one that combines the hooks and emotional kick of the best pop with a willingness to experiment, keeping the listener guessing.
The band consists of “queer best friends” Elena and Kyle and this seven track release has a truly collaborative feel to it. Both are credited with playing multiple instruments and switch vocal duties throughout, while the way that the songs have been pieced together – often relatively sparse arrangements which sound nonetheless full of feeling – seems, somehow, reflective of the process of sending and receiving musical ideas across the internet during lockdown. The opening track of the EP – ‘(u know) u mean a long minute 2 me’, in which the lyrics apparently came from Kyle mishearing a line of dialogue in Netflix docu-series Tiger King, a fact that in itself makes the early-lockdown writing period extremely clear – was also the EP’s lead single. It sets the scene for what follows beautifully: a long, soft, introduction to the record which finally kicks into gear with the introduction of drums about two and a half minutes in, shifting from atmospheric pop to a shimmering lowkey take on disco.
If you’ve ever wondered (and I’m not sure why you would) what it would sound like if The XX tried their talented hands at making early 2000s slow jams, it might not sound a million miles away from ‘u c right thru me like a windowpane’. Certainly the atmospherics and soft vocal delivery which The XX made their trademark is evident here, but ACAB have far greater warmth in their lyrics and have more fully embraced pop sensibilities. So, in fact, a comparison to XX solo project Romy is probably more apt. The band themselves credit Owen Pallett’s ‘I Am Not Afraid’ as an inspiration for this track and the connection extends beyond a lyrical reference – both treat genre with the same flexibility while remaining refreshingly earnest. Julia Holter is another useful melodic reference point for the EP as a whole.
Other highlights include the rolling melodies of ‘skippin down the stairs like a slinky’ and the Blood Orange-esque ‘i get dayblindness when ur nearby’ which skitters along, built around a chorus to make connoisseurs of 2010s R’n’B swoon. Meanwhile, EP-closer ‘tryna b the 1 2 solve ur shape’ is the kind of ambient-inspired pop which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Frank Ocean’s Blonde.
There has clearly been a great deal of care taken in the construction of these songs – in their lyrics, their melodies, their arrangements and their recording and engineering. As a result, there isn’t a loose moment across the seven tracks; not a wasted or superfluous second, just twenty two and a half minutes of wonderfully imperfect pop.
the things we made, the new EP from all cats are beautiful, is out now via Moshi Moshi Records. Listen/download here.
Photo Credit: Aaron Price