Cymbals Eat Guitars’ new album, Pretty Years, is even better than LOSE, which I thought was such a perfect distillation of the band’s aesthetic that they’d never be able to top it. Pretty Years is slightly less elegiac (the song Have A Heart is even a very pretty and happy love song), and a little more forward-looking, though there’s still no other band that does sad-as-fuck retrospection as well as this band: Wish, about missed chances; Dancing Days, about slowing down and settling; and the album-closing (and heartbreaking) Shrine, which is about, among other things, the question of what happens to our accumulated memories, experiences, and mental bric-a-brac when we die.
Over these last two albums especially, Joseph D’Agostino’s lyrics seem to have become more personal and more focused on his home regions—he sings in a way less guarded way about New Jersey, Staten Island and New York City, and Philly, where he lives now. As someone who moved from the East Coast to the West, when I listen to some of the CEG discography, it triggers the activation of so many memories and associations, particularly with 4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY), which is so Philly it might was well be wearing an Eagles jersey (Cunningham), holding a soft pretzel, posing like the Rocky statue, sporting an unkempt goatee, and dialing the number for 94WIP. D’Agostino sings about spending time in Philly on Independence Day and encountering some (I’d say) typically aggressive Philly behavior, which shocks him out of his depression and listlessness, though he admits, at the end, that, even though he’d experienced something surprising and intense and wanted to remain in that mode, i.e. being present in each moment, he slipped back again into the same feelings he’d had before. It’s so fucking bleak, but it’s also so goddamn good. Cymbals Eat Guitars are an incredible band and they definitely deserve way more attention than they get—Pretty Years is one of the best albums of the year.