Top 5: Baths

Street: 07.06

When Cerulean came out on Anticon earlier this year, critics were quick to lump the 21-year-old Californian’s debut into the burgeoning (and largely made up) chillwave microgenre. Baths took offense to this—it is easy to see why. Instead of being ostensibly effects-driven and wrapped under a gauze of lo-fi consumer electronics, Cerulean is all beats. Crisp, sparkling, low-end rumbling beats are looped with such complexity and with such a dizzying array of auxiliary instrumentation and vocal manipulation that they are easy to lose in the shuffle. But, as Baths’ September show at the Urban Lounge showed, he is clearly much more informed by standard 4-on-the-floor electronic music than by the idea of electronic music that many of his contemporaries draw from. At the core of each song on Cerulean, besides an intricate beat palate, are songs. These are songs that are written with verse-chorus arrangements and real, heartfelt emotion.  “Plea” is a love song addressed to a man, and given Will Wiesenfeld’s own sexuality and the song’s timeliness, “Plea” can be viewed as a sort of post-Prop 8 anthem. Except it’s not. “Plea” is only political as a point of reference. While “Plea” is relatively easy to track emotionally, the rest of Cerulean bounces from the most exuberant and wide-eyed to brooding and unsteady, usually all within the same song. Cerulean’s other near-perfect track is “Hall.” It starts with an acoustic guitar and vocal line that has been chopped and edited past the point of recognition before a heavy galloping beat whisks the track into Wiesenfeld’s lengthy falsetto chorus that pulls all of the disparate parts of the song under one roof. While hyper-kinetic and bright, the song broods with a quiet dissatisfaction at its core that defines Cerulean’s deep emotional core: a sizzlingly bright blue. –Ryan Hall