It’s the same old story really. Boy meets girl and the love story (and all the drama/excitement it entails) ensues – haven’t heard that in a while, huh? But where’s the fun in staring at the trite, familiar façade if you can’t take a peek behind it for once? With their self-titled début LP, Cigarettes After Sex give you an opportunity to do just that by allowing such scenes to play out before your mind’s eye. So please, grab a seat, lean back, and drift off to where your (or in this case, MY) imagination takes you.
Scene 1: “K”
Even though he has known her for most of his life now, Kristen was still a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma for him; too often have, behind that ravishing smile and glistening green eyes of hers, her true intentions lain hidden. Sitting across the table from her in their favorite restaurant (the one where the big Art-déco chandeliers languidly pour their lavish light over the red velvet wall cladding), he wondered what exactly her expression meant. It wasn’t the first time she confused him that day, either.
Earlier that day, after they finished making love in his hotel room, she got up to get dressed, leaving him in bed alone. Stepping out the door, she mischievously said: ‘See you later, big guy. You want me to wear that black dress you love so much for our date today?’, but before he could even answer, she was gone. All that was left there now besides him was her perfume on the bed sheets and an unfamiliar scent of longing in the air, one that their previous tête-à-têtes didn’t leave lingering in whatever room they chose to meet when he was in town.
‘What’s wrong?’, Kristen asked in a dulcet tone, abruptly retrieving him from his daydreams, ‘You are so quiet.’ ‘It’s nothing, really. Did I already tell you that you look gorgeous?’ And there it was again, that smile which left him so perplexed. Her whole behavior seemed so atypical from the woman he knew. Could it be that, after all these years, after everything they went through, Kristen finally…no, it can’t be.
Scene 4: “Apocalypse”
The mountains looked almost surreal in the faint lilac hue of the fading sunlight. If the smog didn’t dim the lights of the city in the distance, the view would’ve been even more breathtaking, but he didn’t dare complain; the view he had his eyes on all day left him without any spare air in his lungs anyway. Among the trees and sycamores, the two were standing on the edge of an observation platform. Kristen has been holding her shoes in her hand for a while now, since the terrain didn’t really allow for such bold footwear.
In silence, he had his arm around her shoulders, while hers was placed firmly around his waist. Unbeknownst to each other, both thought ‘if only this moment could last forever’, in almost shocking unison.
‘Do you remember the last time we were here?’, he asked after what really did seem like an eternity. She took a while to respond, which didn’t come as a surprise. He was far from the only dude she ever brought up here, and he knew it very well. Finally, she said: ‘Yeah, I remember. We were 16. It was the day that one helicopter crashed not far from where we are now.’ ‘Yup. We didn’t care though, did we?’ She giggled. She knew full well what he was alluding to. Reminiscing about those days long gone, they both couldn’t help notice how much things have changed in the meantime.
She turned to leave, tugging on his arm. ‘Come now,’ she said, ‘I have to go to college tomorrow.’ ‘Can’t you just skip some classes?’ ‘Quit joking around’, she replied, semi-seriously, ‘I’m in my last few months. I can’t afford to miss anything. Just drive me home, alright? It’s not like I’ll be gone forever.’
Scene 9: “John Wayne”
He was impatiently waiting in his father’s baby-blue Chevrolet Bel Air for her to finish classes for the day. Patience has never been his strong suit, but ever since he left his hometown in search of work, it got even worse; every second he actually got to spend with her became doubly valuable to him. If only she would’ve come with him, like he begged her to do, thing could’ve been different. But he begged to no avail; she stayed behind to finish college. She was too strong, too independent to allow herself to become too reliant on a single man. Which he, in a weird way, always admired about her.
The warm afternoon sun embraced her as she stepped outside; a cool breeze marked her transition from the stuffy corridors of the college building into the open. The pebbles crunched under her white sneakers as she went along the path to the parking lot, where she was supposed to meet him. And sure enough, there he was – the man she had known since they both were kids. Her heart, much to her surprise, skipped a beat. She didn’t quite know what to make of it. Could it be that she…no, surely it’s nothing. ‘Hey, Kristen, I’m over here!’, he shouted, waving at her.
As she approached his car, she saw him smiling, albeit kind of nervously. Did he know? Or was he as confused as she was? Leaning over the blue-and-white driver’s door, she drew him closer and kissed him. ‘What was that one for?’, he asked, drawing up his right eyebrow in a playful manner. ‘I don’t know, I just felt like it,’ she replied coyly.
You see, this record has its own special kind of evocativeness, providing an apt canvas for the painting brush of your mind with its lush, beautiful compositions. Forgive my gushy, pretentious lucubrations, but Cigarettes After Sex is by far the best album I’ve heard this year (and indeed in a while), so I really, really can’t help myself. I implore you to give it a chance, because I’m certain that it may just draw you in with its magic ways as heavily as it did me.
Notable Tracks: All of them. Just listen to the damn album.
FFO: Lana Del Rey, Nothing, Beach House