Blonds – The Bad Ones
by Matthew Yau
It’s usually unfair to compare artists and their interpretation of a genre but the similarities between Blonds and Lana Del Rey are almost inescapable. Both feature a prominent, sultry vocals and both produce sounds that could easily be the soundtrack for a 50s film noir. But their beginnings differ greatly. While Lana struggled with her rise to prominence which had to be triggered by a changes in her stage name and image, Blonds’ were only making music for themselves and were pleasantly surprised that find that people would pay to see them perform.
In fact, their beginnings are more akin to that of Tennis – a loved up couple who just wanted to share their relationship through some tunes. Their debut album, The Bad Ones, is the result. It sits somewhere in between Lana Del Rey and Cults but the composition has more depth than both with plenty of layers to soak your ears with. That means that Blonds’ brand of baroque pop is more replayable. I got a bit bored of Lana quite quickly, Cults still get a decent amount of attention here and there but Blonds has been played enough to destroy any sound, yet it still hasn’t quite died (my daily playlists really need to mixed up more).
The duos short-term longevity can be put down to the variety in the album. It begins with the slow and poignant ‘Heartstrings’ – a steady start that isn’t particularly tasty for the masses. ‘Amen’ also starts out slowly but it shows glimpses of Jordy Asher’s compositional range. Half-way through, the influx of ambient sounds breathes new life into the track while Cari Rae’s vocals remain as composed as ever. Fan’s favourite is definitely ‘Run’ as the alluring guitar echoes throughout and it’s also the track that is most similar to Lana’s material. The 50s tone is just so palpable.
But the album definitely grows, matures and ultimately sounds better towards the end. ‘Time’ appears one-dimensional at first but then you realise how auto-biographical it could be and suddenly, it becomes one something much more affecting and moody, especially when you begin to notice the grumbling bass beneath it all. It is also Jordy’s favourite track on the LP (Cari’s is ‘If Only’). In ‘Fallen’, you have a song that (unbelievably) you wish Cari’s voice wasn’t so prominent. There’s no doubt that her vocals are a massive feature of Blonds, but ‘Fallen’ once again highlights Jordy’s compositional vision. Multi-layered guitars, subtle bass drums and whirring effects make this a fun tune to just focus on the instrumental.
‘Gospel Kid’ is one of the few tunes where Jordy takes some vocal responsibility and while he doesn’t have as much colour as Cari, the tune is actually one of the best on the album. It’s far too short but the riff that dominates it creates a wonderfully wistful tone despite its simplicity. ‘Locomotion’ was a track that Cari really disliked but after some maintenance work in the studio, the track got uprooted and put together. It a brave but necessary creative process that many artists (not just music) around the world will be familiar with and the results are there for all too it – there’s a delicate balance between Cari’s expressive vocals and distorted, driven guitars.
Blonds wanted The Bad Ones to be honest, raw and a reflection of the relationship they share. Can we honestly doubt that they haven’t achieved that? In fact, they’ve done more than that. They’ve got Lana quaking in her gilded baroque wingchair.