Closer to Grey
You don’t come to Chromatics for the songs so much as the opportunity to linger in the world in which the songs transpire: Eerie, stylish, unsettled but seductive—a horror movie so pretty you don’t see the silver for blade or the red for blood until it’s too late. Surprise-released in late 2019 after a years-long period during which they teased an entirely different album (the hypothetical Dear Tommy, whose 25,000 physical copies producer/songwriter Johnny Jewel supposedly destroyed), Closer to Grey leans on the lighter side of the band’s sound, shifting between beatless meditations (“Wishing Well,” an unnerving take on “The Sound of Silence”) and brittle, ethereal synth-pop (“You’re No Good,” the downtempo “Light as a Feather”).
As with 2012’s Kill for Love (and even more so 2007’s classic Night Drive), the tension is between the anchor of the beat and the light-headedness of Ruth Radelet’s vocals, the sense that everything is beautiful and shimmering but that the beauty and shimmer only serve to conceal a lurking threat. “Don’t you know that fear is what they offer/Love is there to catch you if you fall,” Radelet sings on the harrowing “Whispers in the Hall” just as the band splinters into noise—a reassurance framed as an inescapable curse.