Highway Hypnosis

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Depending on your point of view, 2019's Highway Hypnosis is either the third album from post-punk artist Sneaks, or the first. Sneaks, born Eva Moolchan, has two previous releases to her credit, 2015's Gymnastics and 2017's It's a Myth, but those clocked in at 14 and 18 minutes, respectively, even though they featured ten songs each, so it's a judgment call whether or not they're full-length albums. Highway Hypnosis, however, boasts 13 tracks and runs almost half-an-hour, and its (relatively) grand scale dovetails with a greater stylistic ambition this time out. Gymnastics and It's a Myth were strikingly minimal efforts, with Moolchan's cool but playful vocals spoken/sung over stark backing tracks built from drum machines, basslines, and occasional keyboards. While no one would ever accuse Highway Hypnosis of sounding busy, producers Carlos Hernandez, Tony Seltzer and Moolchan have greatly expanded Sneaks' aural palette on this material. The beats have a greater swing, and the grooves are funky in a sneaky, roundabout way her previous work was not, and if her truly memorable bass work isn't as prominent, when it lands on "Holy Cow Never Saw a Girl Like Her," it's powerfully effective. The broader range of found sounds, samples, and synth patches that make up the tracks give Highway Hypnosis a different personality than Sneaks has revealed in the past. The mood of these songs is decidedly trippier, and the interplay between Moolchan's vocals and her beats feels mildly psychedelic with just the faintest touch of menace lurking beneath the surface. Sneaks is still looking for good times on "The Way It Goes" and "A Lil Close," but when she talks about having a planet of her own on "Ecstasy," it fits, since this album features 13 potential anthems for her alternate universe. And if the title track's subliminal commercial for itself is a bold conceit, Highway Hypnosis leaves no doubt that Sneaks has the talent, the vision, and the charm to pull this off. Some artists stumble when they move on from a strongly minimal aesthetic, but Sneaks sounds justifiably confident on Highway Hypnosis, and this suggests any number of new directions where her talent could travel.

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