Uneasy Laughter

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Moaning's self-titled 2018 debut was an astonishingly focused set of noisy post-punk songs filled with scathingly bitter lyrics that attempted to uncover the problems behind faulty relationships. On the band's second album, they retain the same lyrical concerns, but they completely revamp their sound, replacing the sheets of guitars with synthesizers and electronic loops. Not that guitars have entirely left the picture, as every song contains them in some form or another, but there's a much wider range of tones on display here. Even with the switch from noise-pop to dark new wave, and the increased sonic experimentation, the band still write hook-filled songs with cutting lyrics that attempt to make sense of a constant storm of conflicting feelings. While touring and working on the album, vocalist Sean Solomon became sober and extensively read books about gender and mental health. While the album's lyrics deal with self-doubt and regret, with Solomon directing the blame at himself, the songs reflect a greater sense of empathy -- he expresses the desire to love others on opener "Ego." Still, elsewhere he warns other people of his faults so that they don't get pulled into a whirlpool of pain and destruction. On "Fall in Love," he expresses the fear that a potential partner won't be interested in him once they get to know him and find out who he really is, and on the brutal "What Separates Us," he attempts to stave off disappointment by declaring "you're wasting your time, there's nothing here for you that will satisfy." This seems like it could end up being an overwhelmingly bleak and depressing album, but the best songs are written and performed in a way that resonates, and the creativity of the music itself makes the harsh sentiments easier to digest. "Running" is both complex and breezy, with spacious production and rhythm that seems to float above the ground yet still sounds insistent. "Say Something" is filled with soft drum machine pulsations and calming waves of synth textures. Even with the group's expanded sound, there are still direct hits like "Make It Stop," the album's most riff-heavy rock song. Uneasy Laughter is a riskier proposition than Moaning's first album, but it demonstrates their tremendous growth, both as a band and as humans.

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