If you’ve not heard of or heard Troye Sivan then now is the time. He’s already been around a while releasing two albums and he also has history as both an actor and YouTuber. Born in South Africa, raised in Australia and till lockdown resident of the US, he’s hardly a new artist except to the likes of me way off the zeitgeist these days! The great thing about that though is that sometimes you discover someone and there’s a lot of music to listen to. `In A Dream`, released last week, showcases six songs that take regret, sadness or reflection but channel those emotions in interesting ways. It’s won serious critical attention in places where someone like him could be ignored and that’s an indication that this music is seriously good. In fact its some of the best new music I’ve heard this year.
`Take Yourself Home` resonates right now with lines like “If I’m going to die, lets die somewhere pretty,” as the protagonist declares he’s tired of the city. It’s a call for simpler things after the difficulties of a relationship but takes on an unexpected meaning with the way things are now. Sounding deceptively laid back there’s a great dichotomy between the music and lyrics, similar to some of the later George Michael songs but more adventurous sonically especially in the closing minute. `Easy` is a great pop song by any standards with hooks that get right into your head and are made for whistling! They float on subtly arranged instrumentation and like all great pop songs it has a tiny unexpected moment; in this case a yelp at the end of one line after he sings “This house is on fire.” It is a refreshing way of looking at the end of a relationship with some strands of optimism peaking through whatever the situation.
`Could cry just thinking about you` only lasts 52 seconds and has a country vibe to it. Its bonsai pop perhaps! `STUD` (yep, the title is in capitals) has a clever lyric that at first appears to simply be about admiring someone else till it introduces issues of body awareness. “You’ve got all the muscles and the features I want” could be taken as being aspirational rather than admiring. Or both. It’s worth adding that Sivan’s voice really draws you into these songs without being showy or technically brilliant.
My favourite of the songs is `Rager Teenager!` even if the idea of someone who is just twenty five longing for his teenage years makea you want to shout at them "You're still young!". It is a call back to a more ragged time which floats into view on the sort of chords you might expect a brass band to play. “I just wanna fuck shit up “ he sings and you can hear the passion for a past already lost to someone so young as urgent drums cut in and out through the rich keyboards. And it has a great outro, people should pay more attention to outros! It’s so good I keep listening to it! Just like a teenager!
`In A Dream` itself is reminiscent of the feather light pop Phoenix trade in. It’s a song about only seeing someone in dreams which is I suppose how we do see people we’ve lost or fallen out with. It takes a few listens this one being a slow burner but you can see why Sivan has said it could be the most important song he’s written to date.
The aesthetic of this release is gorgeous too with interesting, moody photography and including a couple of excellent promo videos he directed himself. The one for `Easy` uses the imagery of the song – especially the fire- to great effect as he is seen wandering around a sparsely furnished flat while on tv is a heightened Bowie-like Troye performing the song in a tv studio. There is something remarkable about the `Rager Teenager!” film even though it was clearly shot for next to nothing in his own bathroom during lockdown. Yet it’s a proper performance of the song which conveys it so well. There are even little Origami figures he throws about for no reason or so it seems. Actually there is a reason, it relates to a film he’s been making that got halted due to the pandemic.
2020 is going to be the oddest year of most of our lives and without mentioning it once this EP seems like the perfect soundtrack for our ongoing fractured world