- A rich archive of haunting pop experiments from the enigmatic UK artist.
- "Resisting urge to text mi ex about new dean blunt album," read a tweet that crossed my timeline in one of the daily hours-long phone scrolling sessions I use to chip away at the monotonous weeks of quarantine. Sitting in my bedroom and gazing blankly at the empty wall while listening to Blunt's 21-track compilation of new and old work, I could see how the chunky samples with their mid-'00s schmaltz could draw you to the dregs of your contact list "for old time's sake." Finally giving official release to a lot of material that's been floating around for ages in niche YouTube corners under different titles and on fan-made compilations, Roaches 2012 - 2019 is both fresh and a reminder of how ahead of its time Blunt's work has proven to be.
Where artists like those affiliated with PC Music mimic the sounds of pop hits, taking the genre to its most bombastic conclusion, Blunt uses indie rock and art-pop as his point of reference, fiercely re-appropriating both. "(What's The Story) Morning Glory is the best album ever," the British producer told The Guardian in 2012, "That's what I listen to day in day out." His penchant for shoegaze fuzz, jangly guitars and sweeping strings doesn't feel tainted by irony. These elements are used in earnest, lending the tracks vulnerability and effortless cool. Blunt finds truffles in even the muddiest of songs, extracting what's beautiful and having the confidence to let it be. With this compilation's cacophony of influences, unhinged tone and no-fucks-given production style, it seems Blunt is re-upping bedroom pop at the perfect time.
Blunt's flashes of vulnerability first started appearing around 2012 in solo releases like The Narcissist II. After this, his vocals became a regular feature of his work, a phase amply represented in this album. In "FELONY," he bellows reflections on the let-downs of love. "NEVA" is a never-before-heard duet with singer Poison Anna where Blunt's pitch-averse stylings prove to be the perfect companion to her wine-soaked crooning. None of these songs exceed three minutes, and all manage to capture a unique fragment of Blunt.
"TRIDENT 2" is a chilling spoken-word piece about a war between the Hackney Boys and Tottenham Mandem gangs in '90s-era East London, detailing not only the conflict but also the harmful police response that followed. By archiving it in this medium, Blunt returns the song to its ancient use as a vessel for history, capturing the story in a way that's both rich and emotionally resonant.
Shards of recent music history protrude from these tracks. Using samples from The Libertines, Incubus and Bad Brains, to name a few, every song on Roaches doubles as a sort of time capsule, with Blunt skimming his library for the most compelling segments and using them to anchor his synth-dense world with all its shadowy rhythms and bargain-bin acoustics.
In "LIT Freestyle," Blunt adlibs over a few hefty but cleverly arranged loops of '80s band Prefab Sprout's "Cue Fanfare." The only lyric left from the original is one I've come to feel perfectly encapsulates the anxious longing that accompanies my daily bike rides around a now empty city: "Some obsessions take me back." The line repeats over and over again. Sometimes Roaches burns you with its nostalgia-inducing hits, but the sting is always worth it. Mostly these songs produce clouds of feeling, not remembering. Snapshots of deeply personal moments you know nothing about that somehow still deliver a shiver of familiarity, enough to scramble your stomach and take you right the fuck back.
02. SICKO freestyle
05. LIT freestyle
07. ACTS OF FAITH
09. TRIDENT 2
10. NITRO GIRLS 1
11. NITRO GIRLS 2
12. NITRO GIRLS 3
13. NITRO GIRLS 4
14. WIDOW freestyle
15. BENIDORM 1
16. BENIDORM 2
17. BENIDORM 3
18. BENIDORM 4
19. BENIDORM 5
20. BENIDORM 6
21. BENIDORM 7
22. N Then She Said I Need to Tell U Somethin N Dont Hate Me For It...
23. PRAYER 2015
24. BROTHERHOOD freestyle (lower remix)
26. SHAME freestyle