Blaqk Audio — Only Things We Love
Years ago, when a friend told me that AFI frontman Davey Havok had "an EDM project," I initially rolled my eyes at the thought as there was a rash of frontmen dabbling in similar experiments at the time. Still, as a big fan of AFI, especially their Decemberunderground and Sing The Sorrow records — both of which drew a lot of criticism for their heavy inclusion of electronica elements and abandonment of their stripped down, punk roots — I had to give Blaqk Audio a chance. I ended up enjoying the pair of albums the project had out at the time, Cex Cells and Bright Black Heaven, and I've been following their output ever since. 2016's Material was a good album, although it felt a little slow overall and didn't have as many hooks in my estimation; I was hoping this new record would be a return to form.
Well, I got my wish: Only The Things We Love was previewed with a few singles, most notable being "The Viles" — an absolute banger and a track in the running for my favourite song the group has released. The slower tunes, "Muscle And Matter," "Caroline In The Clip," "Maker" and "Dark Arcades," still have a lot of energy to them despite slower tempos, while the rest of the album features much quicker, dancier material. Sonically, Only Things We Love doesn't sound much different than past efforts, but the song writing is tighter and the material still manages to differentiate itself from the rest. If anything, these 12 tracks are the best, tightest work Blaqk Audio have written to date. Even the hi-hats and background instrumentals have a lot of nuanced flourishes that keep things from sound like synth + 4/4 beat, rinse-wash-repeat.
The whole album is really well paced, packed with club bangers, midtempo synth-pop and slow ballads perfectly distributed throughout. As someone who listens to full albums at a time, the pacing of a record is really important to me. The variety in instrumentation, Havok's vocal style — and the presence / absence of digital processing on his voice from track-to-track — and tempo has always been one of Blaqk Audio's strong suits. Havok's lyrics remain as ambiguous as ever, with a lot of the content focusing on relationships — both directly, such as the domestic violence aspect to "OK Alex," and in the abstract — and it's not always clear what the gender dynamic is, or which point-of-view he's speaking from. This leaves the listener to fill in a lot of gaps on their own, which makes for an interesting experience.
I can't find anything to criticise here; everything on Only The Things We Love is on point. From the opener, "Infinite Skin," to the closer, "Matrimony And Dust," this album rips through hit after hit. There's nothing you need to skip here, no belaboured intros or segue tracks, just 42-and-a-half minutes of quality electronica music packed full of groovy hooks. Blaqk Audio had already started becoming my preferred Davey Havok project and Only Things We Love completes the process. I've always appreciated Havok's vocal range, and Blaqk Audio exploits that to maximum effect in writing catchy hooks in abundance. If I want to hear him doing abrassive vocals, there's always Xtrmst and the old, classic AFI albums anyway.
At this point, it's exceedingly clear that Blaqk Audio is more than a mere dalliance with a disparate genre. Both Davey Havok and Jade Puget are clearly serious about this project and have both a genuine interest in electronic music but also have continually worked to master the tools of the trade. Only Things We Love is the mark of a project reaching maturity and truly dialing its sonic aesthetic. Full marks here, Only Things We Love is an excellent record.
Blaqk Audio issue their strongest album to date, with Only Things We Love, the group's fourth full-length offering. Serving up the project's 12 most polished tracks to date, this album maintains a streak of quality releases and surpasses its predecessors as well. For those familiar with this project, there is no drastic shift in style or sound, but the song-writing and execution are the best they've ever been. Newcomers may as well start here, if there's interest in Blaqk Audio then their other albums are also worth a look, but you may as well start here — with their strongest offering.
Release date: March 15th, 2019
Record label: BMG Rights Management LLC
Davey Havok — vocals
Jade Puget — synths, keyboards, programming
- Infinite Skin
- The Viles
- Muscle And Matter
- Caroline In The Clip
- Summer's Out Of Sight
- OK, Alex
- Enemies Forever
- Dark Arcades
- Dark Times At The Berlin Wall
- Matrimony And Dust
Published: March 29th, 2019.