The version of indie-pop Bent Denim presents on Romances You is uniquely modern and entirely their own. It’s a drowsy, depressive sort of music, the sound of a technology-addled imagination anxiously drifting through that space between dreams and waking life. Ben Littlejohn and Dennis Sager spell out that sentiment from the start — “I’m stuck in daydreams and sex dreams and reality, I can’t keep it straight” — and the music maintains it throughout, casting melodic mumbled sighs against a sonic environment that gorgeously conjures that sense of mixed-up longing. There’s a true synthesis here, combining shades of K Records twee, the ornately rootsy chamber-pop of Wilco and Sparklehorse, Grandaddy’s dystopian prog-pop, Drive soundtrack ’80s noir, and DIY electro-pop into a timely vehicle for timeless quarter-life concerns.
Sometimes the vulnerability verges on creepy; “Caitlin” is a miniature story-song about staying up all night trawling the internet for photos of a woman who may or may not be Bent Denim’s publicist, and “City Of Gardens” involves trying on a would-be lover’s clothes “just so I can know what it feels to be inside you.” Mostly, though, it’s just a bummer, albeit one that will resonate if you’ve ever spent nights in front of a computer, crushing on somebody and wondering what’s going to become of your life — see “If But For You,” with its tagline, “When I grow up I want to be unemployed so I can spend all day playing with your toys,” or “Jesus Called,” which tenderly, humorously, desperately posits, “Jesus called and he said you should let me in,” or closer “16th Ward,” with its visions of “a stable family life, TV dinners and a hot wife.”
Romances You does what its title suggests. In their own awkward way, Bent Denim have grown on me with each listen, luring me into their headspace, turning passing intrigue into deep appreciation. Their album is a pathetic, poetic, majestic piece of work, and you should stream it in full below.
Romances You is out 4/28. Pre-order it here.