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10 Amazing Italian Progressive Rock Albums

Back in late 60’s/early 70’s progressive rock has been a real cultural and artistic revolution and it worldwide influenced bands and artists to make very inspired music with the intention of expand what rock had created till then. Of course we all (i suppose) know the bigger british names like King Crimson, Genesis or Jethro Tull, bands that created solid basis for the genre; but there are also tons of less known bands and scenes all over the world, and in particular in Europe, that have given a strong contibution to the movement. There is Zehul in France (Magma, Zao, Weidorje), Krautrock in Germany (Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream), the Canterbury Scene (Caravan, Gong, Camel), and the Italian scene: one of the most inspired, prolific and worlwide acclaimed of the entire period.

While USA and UK were experimenting new hallucinating and trippy experiences with psychedelic rock during mid 60’s (which is the direct precursor of progressive rock), Italy remained pretty indifferent to the trend since almost every band was still into beat, with the almost unique exeption of Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano and their sole album Dedicato a (1967), which is a real crazy psychedelic experience “made in Italy”. That’s why the italian prog scene evolved mostly from beat rather than psychedelic rock, sometimes showing some very tender and pop-esque moments, but without forgetting some incredibly weird and dark tunes typical of progressive rock with also many recalls of italian/mediterrean traditional music.

Italian prog season had its higher moments between 1970 and 1975, producing many impressive and incredibly inspired records that still preserves their magic today, after that short period punk had already changed the way of making rock music bringing back simplicity and killing the intricated structures of progressive rock.

This list is of course minimal, and there’s a lot of great stuff from the italian season that remained excluded, it is basically a gathering of some of my favourite ones (but absolutely not the only) according to my personal taste.

Franco Battiato – Pollution – Rock ed elettronica combinati alla perfezione.

Franco Battiato “Pollution” (1972)

Let’s start with a pretty experimental album with a strong dose of electronic music, but probably the most close to a canonic idea of progressive rock from Battiato’s discography. Franco Battiato is currently one of the most acclaimed songwriters in Italy, mostly known for his successful pop songs made during the 80’s, his love for exotic music and philosophy, and for his very eclectic personality that makes him one of the most genuine and creative artists of Italy.

His progressive period includes three records: Fetus (1972), Pollution (1972) (the more rock) and Sulle Corde di Aries (1973) (the more acclaimed and inspired according to critical reception), then there’s a more experimental period followed by a pop/new wave one during best part of the 80’s and then by tons of other records of different genres released from then till today.

This work is a concept album based on pollution, and it is a very particular journey made of unique sounds that evocates exotic and spacey vibes; there’s a very solid rhythmic section of bass and drums that gives a very enthralling touch to the music in particular on the songs Areknames (where there’s also a very distinctive harmonisation of distorted guitars) and Beta. The main ingredient is obviously still Battiato’s EMS VCS3 with its hypnotic sound, very distinctive for most of his experimental works, that here creates an incredibly entrancing atmosphere especially when mixed with the sinister guitars of Plancton. Among effects, samples, classical music references and Kafka inspired monologues, the album continues and ends, leaving the listener a bit confused, but certainly impressed.

Inferno: Metamorfosi: Amazon.it: Musica

Metamorfosi “Inferno” (1973)

Progressive rock is one of the very rare episodes in rock’s music universe where guitars are not predominant or in some cases even absent; this happens in UK with the giants Emerson, Lake and Palmer as the bigger example, but also in Italy with some cases that includes this album.

Metamorfosi is a band from Rome and this album is their second full-length. The concept is a modern re-interpretation of Dante’s Commedia first chapter based hell, indeed on the musical side the atmospheres does an excellent work of evocation, bringing some definitely “infernal” keyboards/synth sounds that may be perfect as soundtrack while crossing the Acheron. As said in the introduction that’s very surprising how a record with almost no guitars at all could bring such sinister atmosphere and how much could be solid, enthralling and intense.

There’s a lot of epicness in the vocal parts and a lot of melody on the lead key’s lines, elements that alongside a use of not extremely technical passages, contribute to give a very immediate and distinctive impact on the listener. Definitely one of the most memorable it-prog records.

√ Alan Sorrenti - ARIA - la recensione di Rockol.it

Alan Sorrenti “Aria” (1972)

Even if he’s most known in Italy as a disco pop singer for some very famous singles released at end of 70’s, the songwriter Alan Sorrenti started his carreer creating some of the most evocative, experimental and weird tunes of the italian prog rock season; His first record Aria is a real jewel absolutely worth to listen.

Permeated by a unique magical atmosphere the album should be intended as a meditative and dream-like journey; it is opened by a dark long suite (Aria) characterized by an impressive and crazy vocal performance developed on a very weird, but yet emotional, musical tapestry with melancholic violin and piano melodies, accompanied by dark folk acoustic guitars and enthralling bass lines enriched by experimental sounds here and there (you can hear synths, effects and even trumpets). With a length of 20 minutes this first side is absolutely unmissable and it is one of the most beautiful and intense things you could hear in 70’s rock in general. Withe the following Un Fiume Tranquillo, Sorrenti continues with dark melancholic folk tunes in a very intimate and meditative form, offering another amazing breathaking song, with melodies and sounds that seems coming from another dimension.

The last two tracks of the album brings some more lighter vibes, but still in a very weird and unique way, confirming this record as an incredible masterpiece absolutely recommended.

Il Balletto Di Bronzo – Ys (1992, CD) - Discogs

Balletto di Bronzo “YS” (1972)

Here we go with another uniqe masterpiece that sounds like nothing else: very dark, atmospheric, hypnotic and cosmic, YS is without any doubt one of the highest points of italian progressive rock.

Balletto di Bronzo was formed in Naples at the end of 60’s as a beat band, but it’s with the addition of the talented keyboardist/vocalist Gianni Leone that things completely changes in a revolutionary way; music becomes heavy, space rock oriented and mesmerizing, confirming YS (second album and only one with this style) as pure progressive perfection.

Gianni Leone’s approach to keyboards is absolutely unique and impressive, alternating different sounds and tones and intersecting them perfectly with powerful bass lines and some very acid guitar distortions, mixing sinister sections with pure heavy rock explosions and almost sci-fi effected sounds. YS is a peculiar trip that sounds like a nightmare where you are trapped through the deep darkness of space with no idea of how to come back. Absolutely amazing.

Arbeit Macht Frei" - Area - Artovercovers

Area “Arbeit Macht Frei” (1973)

One of the most interesting, original and acclaimed rock bands coming from Italy, known for their absolutely unique approach to music; Arbeit Macht Frei is their debut album, considered by best part of the critics not only their best one, but a foundamental block of the whole italian progressive rock season.

The album starts with a female spoken word in arabic recorded in Cairo, Egypt by the band’s drummer Giulio Capiozzo and used as intro of the song Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero); a wonderful track that later evolves in a fantastic table composed of prog rock, jazz, fusion, Soft Machine-esque recalls and a huge variety of mediterrean musical reference from north african music to greek, balkan and obviously italian folk. The album indeed sounds like a magic voyage made of different places and cultures, which is a sort of trademark of Area’s music, also able to push with no limits jazz and avant-garde contaminations played with an incredible sensible approach to the instruments (listen to Arbeit Macht Frei if you want to drown in an ocean of fantastic sax and drums solo expolosions with wonderful organ and guitar melodies). The music is composed by keyboard player Patrizio Fariselli and it is definitely close to perfection especially because it’s performed and often improvised by extraordinary musicians.

Lastly it’s impossible to talk about Area without tributing the singer Demetrio Stratos (died at 34 in 1979), an artist that have become a strong influence all over the world among experimental musicians for his impressive vocal work reached with unique studies on human’s vocal range and singing tecnhiques.

Jumbo – DNA (2006, Gatefold, Vinyl) - Discogs

Jumbo “DNA” (1972)

Formed in Milan in 1969, Jumbo is one of the most interesting bands part of the italian progressive rock movement and this album with the following Vietato ai Minori di 18 Anni (1973) rappresent the peaks of inspiration of their career.

Opened by a long 20 minutes suite on the side A (the wonderful Suite per il Signor K.), this record is a perfect mix of pure hard rock with even blues/country references (especially on the scratchy vocal work and some guitar parts), very impressive flute driven progressive rock parts (needless to say a big Jethro Tull influence can be heard) and baroque sections with piano and acoustic guitar.

DNA is the perfect example of an album that results incredibly cohesive and well crafted mostly because of the band’s great ability of playing and composing music together, perceptible through the ability of assembling different lines and sections to build an incredibly convincing blend.

Here there’s basically the best of italian prog rock: from classical music inspired and acoustic instrumental sections to very heavy guitar driven parts and many emotional melodic moments leaded by piano and guitar; but there’s even a very strong dose of originality, i mean, how many other bands have mixed epic italian hard prog with blues and country out there?

Music Tips: Premiata Forneria Marconi – Storia di un Minuto | 1977

PFM “Storia di un Minuto” (1972)

Certainly the most famous italian progressive rock band and probably the most famous album of the period. PFM (short name version of the complete Premiata Forneria Marconi)  have reached an extraordinary success, way bigger compared to all the other bands, that brought them into international music festivals and music charts and let them survive to the punk period.

This is their debut album and it’s a great lesson of progressive made in the italian way; on first production is absolutely perfect for the years and sounds like a very well recorded and mixed album still today, on second it is an absolutely great record, but i guess this last part was quite obvious.

PFM is able to offer introspective italian 70’s pop inspired moments (Impressioni di Settembre, La Carrozza di Hans), enthralling folk-like tracks (È Festa), hard prog euphoria (La Carrozza di Hans) and even medieval/baroque compositions that reminds the masters of the Canterbury Scene (Dove… Quando). This album shows an almost perfect approach to songwriting and musical execution and La Carrozza di Hans is probably the highest moment, showing very technical but yet emotional classical and electric guitar compositions with magnificent violin and organ solo moments. This formula is also repeated in a very well crafted way on the following album Per Un Amico (1972) recommended as well.

Alphataurus – Alphataurus (1994, CD) - Discogs

Alphataurus “Alphataurus” (1973)

Alphataurus emerges apparently from nowhere back in early 70’s, just time to release this wonderful LP and then completely disappearing the same year (and come back around 20 years later). This is an epic journey and it can be imagined already from the fantastic cover art, very sci-fi-esque, there are synth driven parts that reminds a bit Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Dopo L’Uragano, La Mente Vola) and some more melodic rock tunes (Peccato d’Orgoglio).

There’s a lot of atmosphere here, and very singular soundscapes emerge from the melodies generated by the band’s keys and synths, the song La Mente Vola is probably one of the highest points of the entire record with its unique mysteriousness. Impressive.

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso – Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (Vinile Colorato) – Sky  Stone and Songs

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso “BMS” (1972)

One of the most iconic records from the period released by a legendary band as its first album ever. Everyone interested in italian prog knows and appreciates this, and it is one of the most original, emotionally intense and unmissable albums of that time.

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso is from Rome and beside the incredible and very original voice of Francesco Di Giacomo (1947-2014) the band is known for its very rich compositions made by founder and pianist Vittorio Noncenzi accompanied by his brother Gianni at the keyboards (who played in the band until mid 80’s, when whom role will be replaced by various second guitarist); so, “very extensive male vocals and piano and keyboards played simultaneously with a classical music touch” makes the Banco formula interesting without even listening their music, that omn this record offers an absolutely unique experience.

Opened by an epic spoken word evolving on a melancholic tapestry with flute and guitar the album already shows a strong personality on the first proper track RIP with a very catchy guitar riff accompanied by an enthralling piano section that marks the first part of the song that later evolves into a melancholic section that then becomes pure explosive epicness. Melancholy and epicness seems to be the more appropriated terms to describe the music on several sections of the album always marked by Vittorio Noncenzi’s piano and its unique musical sensibility. There’s also time for weird and dark moments (Il Giardino del Mago) and pure experimentation (Metamorfosi).

BTF.IT >> De De Lind Io non so da dove vengo... - Btf Shop

De De Lind “Io Non So da Dove Vengo e Non So Dove Mai Andrò. Uomo è il Nome che Mi Han Dato” (1972)

Another hidden gem from the italian prog period is the only album released by this obscure band named after a model. Formed in 1967 in the Varesotto area near Milan (where they have later relocated) as a beat band, they’ve then completely evolved their sound with progressive and hard rock contaminations and released this very particular record back in 1972.

The music is very close to the big compatriots bands of the genre such as Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and PFM, and obviously english titans such as Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull (it’s impossible to not think of My God when listening to the flute solo part on Paura del Niente).  differently than most of the albums from the period, the band here has a lot of guitars, also played with a good distortion tone (not so obvious for the time), moreover the vocal work should be definitely mentioned, with its mellow and tender melodic pop (with even folk recalls) vibes. There are also many excellent parts of acoustic guitars and flute that makes this album a really interesting journey made of ancient memories from the early times of man, alternating contemplative parts, heavy explosions and suspensful sections.

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10 Discouraging songs regarding love

Love is without any doubt the most inspriring feeling for all the arts, having a particular visceral empathy with cinema, and music. Saint Valentine’s Day is usually considered the celebration of the most obvious, mutual and happy side of a feeling that actually has way more facetings that are still intense and pure, but which may include desperation, sorrow or just misunderstandings; giving birth to very genuine music pieces and lyrics sometimes permeated by heartache, pain, rejection or nostalgia for a lost love, but also nihilism or skeptciism.

This list contains 10 discouraging songs about love, exploring it in in an opposite way of its joyous stereotypes.

Risultato immagini per radiohead moon shaped

Radiohead “True Love Waits” (A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016)

The song is basically a tormented soft ballad accompanied by hypnotic synths in the case of the studio version and acoustic guitar in the case of the recorded live version, both are undoubtely great and intimate, but maybe the dreamy and abstract feeling of this one fits in a more interesting way with the lyrics. The main topic of the song is remaining young and trying to not grow to keep a loved one and consequently the pureness of the feeling. The main refrain “don’t leave, don’t leave” shows a strong fragility and a real need of someone’s company, while the verses “i’m not living, i’m just killing” are the clear rapresentation of a self-destructive abandonment sometimes relatable to a desperate love.

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Princess Chelsea “I Love My Boyfriend” (The Loneliest Girl, 2018)

Probably most known for her super catchy song Cigarette Duet, Princess Chelsea from New Zealand is surely one of the most interesting names of modern art pop around today.

I Love My Boyfriend is a baroque ballad with some incredibly addictive melodies, especially the ones played by the harp on the chours and the heavenly vocals singing on it; probably this is not intentionally a discouraged song about love, but through its story illustrates a really more than common scenario present in many long time relationships, which demolish the “eternal mutual love” tale we have always heard about.

The song is about a girl in a 10 year relationship feeling something special for another guy, but too confused to admit it. Even if it’s obvious she really wants the other, she tries to convince herself that her boyfriend is the only one she loves. That’s very interesting how the verses where she convince herself that her boyfriend is the one she really loves don’t describe any feeling and they simply remark the fact that “he’s a good man” and “takes care of her” while the ones about the other guy are clearly showing a romantic interest (“everytime he looks at me I get electric shocks, In my brain and in my heart”).

The naive way the narrator denies her feelings to herself is surely spontaneous, but so confuse to show immediately their real nature to the listener, and that’s essentially what makes this song’s lyrics so well crafted.

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Hatchie “Bad Guy” (Sugar & Spice, 2018)

Taken from her wonderful debut EP Sugar & Spice, this is the highest moment of the whole record.  Starting with a beautiful and touching guitar arpeggio the song soon evolves into an ethereal and nostalgic ballad with Cocteau Twins-ish angelic vocal melodies and ends by reaching the loudest and most emotional point in its finale. If it’s not already obvious, Hatchie from Australia, takes inspiration from 90’s british dream pop with a very delicate touch of shoegaze.

This song may have several meanings, but it is essentially about a complicated relationship (not clear if it’s a broken one or not), with the narrator feeling bad and blaming herself for being so much into someone who has clearily made her suffer multiple times.

These lyrics shows in a very mellow way all the frustration of being not understanded by someone you care abuot more than you should.

Risultato immagini per deafheaven roads

Deafheaven “Unrequited” (Roads to Judah, 2011)

Before confimring theirself as one of the most acclaimed bands of the last decade in the world of extreme and alternative music, in 2011 Deafheaven have released this debut album through Deathwish Inc.

The californian ensemble shows immediately a very strong emotional and melancholic touch in their shoegaze-y black metal formula made of very long post-rock overtures and aggressive sections with neverending blast beats, high pitch shrieks and razor distorions.

In terms of sound and lyrics this 9 minutes song describes exactly the tormenting feeling of loving someone who dosen’t respond to your feelings. The deep and desperate feelings expressed in this poetical lyrics are absolutely real and touching, describing a persistent thought impossible to earase (“I feel so worn, quartered, and torn. Hung from the post where my brothers once sung. Cut from the tie where my sanity binds. Stuck in Winter’s Hell, with just you in mind.”), a thought that makes everything else impossible to be done (“I can’t move on, because I can’t shed the weight of myself. There is no such thing as the past, present, or future. There just is, and it never goes away.”), and a lacerating sense of grief accompanied by self blaming thoughts for being unable to stop it (“I thought about you for the rest of the day. Catching my head turning to find you again. I hated myself for it.”)

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Carly Raep Jepsen “Your Type” (Emotion, 2015)

Yes, she’s the same girl behind the addictive summer hit Call Me Maybe we’ve been hearing all day long back in 2012. Althought the undoubtely mainstream pop nature of her music, is always fun to mention that due to a positive review on the versatile music channel theneedledrop, her third album Emotion has started to be surprisingly appreciated by people from completely different musical backgrounds ending up with Swans and Death Grips fans enjoying listening to Carly’s record even if it’s still pure pop.

Beside that funny story, it’s worth to mention that this song is a really honest and well working 80’s inspired track in the same line with the whole album, gathering extremely catchy songs oftenly layered with electro pop synths and pleasant melodies.

Your Type is probably the best track from the album showing a really cheerful and somehow happy atmosphere even if the lyrics are about the hurtful feeling of being in love with someone that consider you just a friend.

The consequences of the situation on the narrator includes self-blaming thoughts for having no control on her feelings (“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I love you, I didn’t mean to say what I said

I miss you, I mean it, I tried not to feel it, But I can’t get you out of my head”) and also an annoyed complain toward her crush’s behaviour for ignoring her love and living normally his relationship (“I bet she acts so perfectly, You probably eat up every word she says, And if you ever think of me, I bet I’m just a flicker in your head”), but in hamrony with the musical aspect there is no negativity and she’s seems to accept in a rational way the situation.

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LowCityRain “You Are Everyone, You Are Everywhere” (LowCityRain, 2013)

After the release of three incredible albums with his main post-metal output Lantlos, in 2013 the german multi instrumentalist Markus Siegenhort decided to released an album with a new solo project named LowCityRain.

The intent is exploring a completely different musical dimension and the result is an absolutely impressive post-punk record with elements of electronic pop, shoegaze and dreamy atmospheres.

You Are Everyone, You Are Everywhere is the opening track of the album and despite the very short lenght it’s incredibly intese, touching and moving; It starts with one of the best guitar lines written in the last decade, clearly The Smiths inspired, and it’s accompanied by a strong rhythmyc and leaded by angelic female vocals.

Lyrics seems to be about a desperate and unreachable love, impossible to remove from your mind even if you’re losing yourself across the monotony of growing grey urban landscapes.

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Carcass “No Love Lost” (Heartwork, 1994)

Formed in Liverpool during the 80’s by Jeff Walker and Bill Steer, Carcass are, alongside their friends Napalm Death the undisputed fathers of grindcore, a genre created mixing wisely devasting metal riffs with hardcore punk elements and insanely fast passages.

After two albums of pure grindcore the band introduced the swedish guitarist Michael Amott from Carnage, with which started to incorporate an impressive amount of melody in its sound borrowed from swedish death metal and classic heavy metal. The monumental album Heartwork is probably the perfect synthesis of this formula, showing a unique massive sound and an amazingly perfect songwriting. No Love Lost is for sure one of the most acclaimed and memorable tracks off this record.

Behind the sour poetry of the words in the lyrics there seems to be a strong scepticism regarding the feeling of love, usually overrated by people, involving theirselves in emotionless relationships made of fake feelings and fake illusions (“The low cost of loving, Amorous travesty, Human frailties and weakness are easy prey, How your poor heart will bleed”), trying to follow an ideal romantic cliche that dosen’t really exist (“Without emotion, your heartstrings break, Snapped and severed to the tune of a tragic, sad cliche, No love lost, When all is said and done, There’s no love lost”).

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The Cure “Pictures of You” (Disintegration, 1989)

There’s no better song to describe nostalgia than this, with its soft melodies and beautiful atmospheres accompanied by a deeply suggestive vocal performance.

Even if it sounds a bit obvious it is worth to mention that The Cure symbolizes the essence of gothic rock and dark music in general, with their melancholic and sad inner poetry, the band leaded by Robert Smith have painted the portrait of a generation who lived its tormented youth during the end of the 70’s and throughout the 80’s.

Disintegration (1989) closes The Cure’s golden decaded and it’s an absolute masterpiece and an iconic record that all of us should have listen at least one time. If there is a central theme on the whole album, that theme is nostalgia, from the missed “kiss of treachery, The shameless kiss of vanity” and “The soft and the black and the velvety up tight against the side of me”  of Disintegration to the harsh memories and the heartbreaking regret of what has gone wrong (“If only I’d thought of the right words I could have held on to your heart”) while contemplating those Pictures of You.

This song is about that sad, but in the same time beautiful sensation of remembering something that will never return, a specific moment, a feeling or whatever related to a lost love. the lyric’s verses are hurtful and sad, and they show a really touched and still vivid love toward someone that even if it’s not anymore in your life, will be never forgotten till the end.

“There was nothing in the world

That I ever wanted more

Than to feel you deep in my heart

There was nothing in the world

That I ever wanted more

Than to never feel the breaking apart

All my pictures of you.”

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The Darkness “Love is Only a Feeling” (Permission to Land, 2003)

The band that more than anyone else has brought back calssic rock at the top of the charts at the beginning of the 2000’s: The four piece ensemble from London leaded by Justin Hawkins takes inspiration from giants such as Led Zeppelin, Queen and Def Leppard and they’re probably the last successful band that intended rock’n’roll attitude in its purest form, but with a unique energy and an irresistible sense of humor.

This song off their most acclaimed album Permission to Land is about nothing more than its title: love is certainly overwhelming and incredibly powerful (“The state of elation that this unison of hearts achieved, I had seen, I had touched, I had tasted and I truly believed”), but it’s really nothing more than just a feeling.

This interpretation of the song is clearly described by Justin Hawkins in a 2003 interview: “”When we wrote that one, I was thinking, ‘People always say that it’s more than a feeling.’ It really isn’t. It’s just that: it’s a feeling”.

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Have a Nice Life “I Don’t Love” (Deathconsciousness, 2008)

Released in 2008, Deathconsciousness is the debut album of the Connecticut based duo Have a Nice Life, It is a deep travel across human subconscious, melancholy, nihilism and tragedy spreaded on a musical tapestry made of gothic rock, post-punk and drone layers.

It’s very interesting how the album gained a strong popularity among the underground alternative community, becoming a cult record still very acclaimed after more than 10 years. Of course it’s not the kind of album you immeidately get into, especially if you’re not in the right mood; it is described by the the band theirself as “the most depressing album in the history of music”.

The song I Don’t Love is probably much more than its title; love is the feeling that moves our exisences more than any other: loving means living and refusing love means refusing life, indeed behind a clear delusion toward love’s condition (“I don’t want to do this anymore, but there’s nothing else to take. I don’t love”) there is a global sense of dissatisfaction and abandonment (“I don’t want to live like this, Lord. I don’t want to live at all”) permeated by a persistent nihilism (“I don’t feel anything where this love should be”).

Musically speaking the atmosphere has a beautiful and calm overall mood that makes the sense of abandonment evocated through the lyrics a sweet experience. The vocal lines are pretty much addictive, it’s impossible to not sing them along after a few listens and their lo-fi sounds fits very well with the fuzzy guitars and the enthralling melodic bass in the background.