No change in band personnel was going to stop Jonny Pierce from retiring The Drums. Nine years after the band’s self-titled debut, Brutalism marks Pierce’s second attempt at revamping his Brooklyn-based project’s brisk indie pop all on his own. He passed that test trial successfully with 2017’s Abysmal Thoughts, a minimal, more efficient recording where he showed a cheery affectation to brush aside all the negativity that followed his personal life. Make no mistake, the leaner, nine-track Brutalism still centers around the same themes: sex, fraught relationships, deep-seated insecurity. On the synth-driven “Pretty Cloud”—a departure from his signature surfy guitars—he’s equally vulnerable, trying to decipher his lover’s mixed messages. The tender acoustic lullaby of “Nervous” finds Pierce dejected and bedridden—channeling one of Frankie Avalon’s sock-hop ballads—trying to find some comfort after a night of playful mingling. It hasn’t gotten any easier for Pierce, but at least he’s learning to enjoy himself.

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