“Le style Métro” might be the perfect phrase to characterize these Abandoned Apartments. Jeremy Jay’s work has always borne an obvious resemblance to wistful indie singer-songwriters from Nick Drake through Sarah Records, but on his new album, there’s an unaccustomed fog — or is it locomotive steam? — creeping onto the scene.
Jay’s frequent train references evoke the melancholy of modernity, the Art Nouveau of the Paris network (a city that’s been the scene of Jay’s recent excursions away from his Stateside homeland). Below the Parisian topsoil, too, lie the catacombs, and a certain darkness inheres in his 80s synth influences, foregrounded now more than in his previous work in titles like “Graveyard Shift,” a nod to goth’s lachrymosity without its Sturm und Drang. The same stormcloud threat is found on stunning opener “Sentimental Expressway,” where there’s something of a post-apocalyptic Ballardian landscape drained of violence or a Jeffrey Smart viewed from the inside, the aftermath of the Assumption of Blondie’s “Shayla” — “Down here we start to wonder/ Cars on the freeway, bright lights and thunder.”
There’s also a perceptible undercurrent both of dub — the architectural use of sonic space, the layering, the repetition — and of 80s funk. At times, the laid-back yet insistent rhythms and synth stabs are reminiscent of Chromatics’ late-night cinematics, but with a pathos that is warm rather than cool-surfaced, a vulnerability that blushes rather than withdraws. It’s this and the eccentric moments punctuating the lovelorn tropes of his lyrics (“Rearrange the magazines and grind up coffee beans”) that make Jay’s sound understatedly unique, setting him apart from the legion of melancholy indie boys of the post-POBPAH era.
Indeed, this languid insistence is a development from the indie rock overtones of 2011’s Dream Diary. Jay’s themes remain fey and wistful, his vocals adorably wavering and hesitant — but naïveté gives way to world-weariness. Despite the aforementioned darkwave influences, it’s not that his earworms get leechlike hooks into you — but that, while you’re caught listening and daydreaming, strands of ivy poke tentative tendrils into the eardrum, and deeper.