Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Charly Bliss – Capacity

Their last one was [6.90], so Charly Bliss may not yet have reached their capacity…


Katherine St Asaph: My suspicion that Young Enough is going to sophomore-slump hard and laboredly is at war with the thrilling, buzzing joy that’s suffused every venue I’ve seen them play, and also with what feels like several weeks straight of “I’m at capacity, I’m spilling out of me” being an earworm. And also, perhaps the subconscious cause: my current millennially burned out state of needing to have a full-time job, plus a side job, plus freelance writing, plus an ill-fated attempt to learn real analysis at the same time (please especially don’t try this), plus a pile of grovercode needing turned into a presentable product in a week (or this), plus a dwindling social life, plus not dying, plus the knowledge that even all this isn’t stopping the rest of the world from lapping me on every axis. “A couple of things is enough”: what a great fantasy.

Ryo Miyauchi: “Capacity” captures the awkwardness in the process of transition. Hissing drum-machine ticks and bleeding Casio notes that sound inspired by early Rilo Kiley stick out of Charly Bliss’s usual get-up like new accessories on an outfit during a trial period, but those new add-ons move the band’s music into a slightly later era of indie-rock without overtly messing with the “bubblegrunge” of the last record. As the music shifts in tone, so does Eva Hendricks, who seem less sardonic not just through her more paced delivery but also her more matter-of-fact lyrics.

Ian Mathers: Sometimes it feels like me and everyone I know are still sentimental, anxious kids and what is “sometimes nothing is delicious” but Mulaney’s “in terms of instant relief, cancelling plans is like heroin” with a starker anhedonia? But I think the restless buzz of “Capacity”, coating the surprisingly steady, sturdy song structure, would appeal even if it didn’t touch the exposed nerve of this week’s minor breakdown quite so hard (but it does that, too). It’s still early in the year, not too late to try for “Sever every microscopic atom of connection to / ‘I can barely keep myself afloat when I’m not saving you'” as a personal resolution.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Musically, it’s less exciting than what Charly Bliss have provided in the past. But more than that, it’s the song’s lack of development and dynamic range that turns “Capacity” into a frustrating listen. There’s bright synth arpeggios and pounding drums but they’re part of an arid musical landscape that sucks the life out of everything — even Hendricks’s idiosyncratic voice sounds anonymous here. The toplines are solid, though, so I’m still holding out hope for Young Enough.

Alex Clifton: I feel like Emily Haines comparisons are inevitable; Eva Hendricks shares her gift of a bright, clear voice that glides. Halfway through the song it begins to swallow itself and even my usual songwriting kryptonite (contrapuntal melodies sung by the same person) doesn’t manage to hold my attention as it might in other circumstances.

Alfred Soto: Not until the second half with the addition of shiny, basic guitar lines does it exceed its minimal capacity. Before that moment, the synth arpeggio and Eva Hendricks’ voice harmonize too well: cutely, in places mawkishly. Yet it coheres, if not at the level of “Percolator.”

Hannah Jocelyn: “Capacity” features a stock drum loop, an almost wholly synthetic backdrop, and a trebly, over-processed main vocal. “Capacity” also rhymes “me” with “me,” and “wrong” and “wrong.” Anyone more attuned to ‘authentic music’ will be irritated to no end, but that might be the point. The music perfectly mirrors the inability to make everyone happy, leaving all parties unfulfilled and unsure where their priorities lie. In the way “Capacity” alienates everyone musically and lyrically, the song becomes more relatable. There are hints of embracing the burnout in the lyrics, but the music completes the anti-people-pleasing message. Anyone talking about burnout (except for Anne Helen Petersen) just sounds like the ear-piercing sonics of this song to those that don’t understand. Too many bands pivot to synth pop in order to be more accessible, but true to their songs’ message, Charly Bliss intentionally please no one but themselves. 

Iris Xie: While Ava Max tries to fake meaningfulness with “So Am I” and Julia Michaels and Selena Gomez are insincere about their experiences with “Anxiety” — Charly Bliss actually does the work of making art that communicates what it is like to recover from the dark, twisted anxiety of people pleasing, while dropping a latticework of references to that lived experience. When Eva Hendricks snarls “desecrated and complacent,” when she rises in elation with about being a “sentimental, anxious kid,” I wince in recognition. How have my own experiences of being mistreated, combined with overthinking and settling for crumbs, created maladaptive coping mechanisms where I people pleased and operated from my insecurities? The past few months have been full of being honest with myself on new levels — I realized that absolutely no one in my current life wants me to be at capacity at all, and they are all rooting for my genuine happiness. Amazingly, “Capacity” embodies a significant part of that experience. Amongst fuzzed guitars and vibrant chimes that oscillate between warmth, danger, and concern, the pre-chorus is electrifying in its construction: “Sever every microscopic atom of connection to / “I can barely keep myself afloat when I’m not saving you.” The melody’s quiet, stirring confidence repeats itself in the hook, “I’m at capacity, I’m spilling out of me / It’s got nothing to do with me.” When Hendricks sings this, it is with a searing mix of joy, resignation, and defiance, and is reminiscent of being high on hope, as seen in Grimes’ “Artangels” and Perfume’s “Fushizen Na Girl.” When I sing along to the hook, and I hear that little thunderclap of drums that affirm the shaking epiphany, I feel simultaneously elated and “god, fuck it, why was it like this?” But it’s okay. Releasing old survival mechanisms that no longer serve me, with the help of therapy and support networks, has helped me understand an important truth. I no longer need to embody old roles that use overextended selflessness as false ways of receiving the self-love that truly, only I can give myself. Therefore, “Capacity” represents the sunniness rising from a relentless miasma, and the work it takes to figure out what your true capacity is.

Vikram Joseph: Living one’s best life is a phrase that a few of us might have used on occasion over the last couple of years – probably with a sense of humorous detachment, but also, almost certainly, with a kind of low-key reverence for the concept, which is, surely, the absolute platonic ideal of existence, right? It’s easily confused, by me at least, with doing as many things as possible all at once; trying to keep myself and everyone else happy and to find comfort in the happy exhaustion of filling almost every evening and weekend with plans, and yet never shaking off the sensation that I’m still not doing enough, not meeting enough people, not living well enough. Fortunate, then, that I’ve been blessed in recent weeks with two extremely relatable songs on the subject – Alex Lahey’s excellent “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”, and this (even better) Charly Bliss single. Transitioning from the salt-spray power-pop of their debut album to rich bubblegum pop, it’s a hooky, summery self-care anthem cushioned by dense, foamy pillows of synths. And it culminates in a spectacular two-chord (it’s rare to hear the old I-IV sound so climactic, or so well-earned) middle eight which must be the most ecstatic-sounding bonfire of anxieties I’ve heard in ages. “I was raised an East Coast witch / like doing nothing’s sacrilegious / triple overtime ambitious / sometimes nothing is delicious,” Eva Hendricks sings in her wonderful, weightless helium howl, that last line sounding like a revelation. Maybe 2019 is the year of doing less! Probably not, though.

Reader average: [4.5] (2 votes)

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One Response to “Charly Bliss – Capacity”

  1. Damn, the closing 1-2-3 punch here is phenomenal.