Baths – “Obsidian”

Photo Credit: CMJ

Photo Credit: CMJ

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: “Incompatible,” “No Eyes”

Baths, the moniker for solo musician Will Wiesenfeld, received mass critical acclaim for his 2010 debut, “Cerulean.” The album was lo-fi alternative, recorded entirely in Wiesenfeld’s bedroom. Musically, the album was a bouncy dose of electronica, often fun and reminiscent of Passion Pit. His follow-up, however, is not any kind of status quo. Wiesenfeld was already setting out to make an album completely independently, which suggests the idea of a darker tone. Soon after, he became rundown with an awful case of E Coli (!) that left him bedridden and unable to perform even basic functions. Meaning, as a musician, he was left unable to express his inner emotions. “Obsidian” is a dark record, and even when it sounds danceable, it still feels dreadful and foreboding.

Musically, Wiesenfeld is on the same level as his debut. Most of the tracks feature just him on vocals and various keyboards and piano. It still sounds as if it were recorded in a bedroom, and may have been. The music, at times, takes a darker tone than his first album. There is little fun here. Tracks like “Worsening” and “Earth Death” suggest darker, personally destructive times. Some songs, like “No Eyes,” have more of a bouncy rhythm, only to get interrupted by noise for a few beats, before returning. The dark tone is not necessarily consistent, as occasionally Wiesenfeld will let more of a fun sound slip in. “No Past Lives” is built around a very original, fun rhythm, but one that really does not fit on the album.

Lyrically, Wiesenfeld is expressing his inner anguish at his post-debut troubles. “Earth Death” centers around the line “Kill me / I see so clearer.” The album opener, “Worsening,” features the darkly comic line “Where is God when you hate him the most?” Religion, death, and meaningless sex are topics on the album, marking a vast departure from his debut. There is some brilliant, dark lyricism here. Disgruntled 90’s alternative bands are re-imagined as a pained solo musician, recording alone. Artists in any genre often have trouble with their sophomore albums, but Baths has found a way to make something wholly different from his debut. “Obsidian” is an intensely pounding and completely satisfying listen.

-Andrew McNally

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