Track-by-Track: The 1975 'Notes on a Conditional Form'
The Manchester-based quartet, The 1975, has returned for the release of their fourth studio album, Notes on a Conditional Form, released on May 22nd.
The album was the final part of their release cycle, “Music for Cars” and was meant to be a continuation of their previous album, A brief inquiry into online relationships, released in 2018. I think that is exactly what they accomplished here.
There are many references to older songs, and they have pulled a lot of inspiration from their previous eras. On the Spotify Storyline for the album, Matty mentions that “Referencing old lyrics is very me, because it’s never a different story, it’s a continuation of the story.”
There isn’t a better way to explain this album - a continuation - and is their most interesting album so far. The more albums a band comes out with, the more pressure there is to change your sound and make something new. The 1975 didn’t do this here; they continued the sound that their fans have come to love.
1. “The 1975” – 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg reads a spoken word passage from “Our House is On Fire” about the ecological crisis happening in our world right now. I love that the band wanted to make a statement with this track and let Greta’s voice be heard in a way it hasn’t been before. “So, everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience – It is time to rebel”
2. “People” – This track starts with heavy drumming and is immediately followed by a strong electric guitar and Matty yelling. Commentary from Matty via Apple Music states that “It was the feeling of oppressive, conservative religion” after they had just played a show in Alabama shortly after the abortion bill was passed there. You can hear the anger and urgency in his voice, it seemed like Matty was ready to reclaim his crown as “Emo God.” “And I know it sounds boring and we like things that are funny - But we need to get this in our fucking heads”
3. “The End (Music For Cars)” – This track is the first one where I notice the band is genre-hopping. The entire thing is instrumental, and it sounds like the beginning scene of a ballet about true love, and every instrument in the orchestra is playing. Matty states that this track is the orchestral rendition of “HSNCC” off of the band's 2013 EP Music for Cars.
4. “Frail State Of Mind” – The song has the same tune as “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” that was released on the band's third studio album. It starts out slow and has intricate, little sounds that escalate and almost sound robotic. The 1975 has written songs about vivid topics such as drugs, mental health, the state of the world, and Matty’s personal battle with drug addiction. They do a really good job taking that aspect of their music and combining it with the fun, less serious dance songs like TOOTIME.
“Don’t wanna bore you with my frail state of mind”
5. “Streaming” – A classical and whimsical sounding instrumental. Matty referred to this side of their music as “Pinocchio-ing” because it’s the music you make when you try to sound like a real boy. They aren’t just showing off their strong lyrics or instrumental abilities but, the band's drummer George Daniel and Matty are showcasing Mother Nature sounding music they can produce. The song ends with a slow piano sound that transitions swiftly into “The Birthday Party.”
6. “The Birthday Party” – I was really skeptical about this song when the band was doing the promo for it. It’s all very futuristic, holographic and so digitalized but so realistic it's scary. The song starts out with the piano from “Streaming” and adds a steady drum and acoustic guitar. “All your friends – In one place – Oh, were a scene”
7. “Yeah I Know” – This song truly sums up this era of The 1975, it’s glitchy and electronic and that’s a lot of what this album and the previous album felt like. There are only a few beats and sounds that are used throughout the song. Seen on the songs “Storyline” feature on Spotify, the band wanted to make something so simple sound so complex.
“Time feels like it’s changed, I don’t feel the same” 8. “Then Because She Goes” – A short and sweet song to keep the album moving. It sounds like it is straight out of the 90’s, I grew up with pop songs about love like this. Healy is always really good at writing about love, the good and bad aspects of it, and this simple but strong love song is what this album needed. They reflected on the music they loved listened to growing up and incorporated that with aspects of their old and new music. “You are mine, I’ve been drowning in you”
9. “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” – This track has only an acoustic guitar, horns, and delicate vocals from Matty and Phoebe Bridgers. I rarely see the band doing collabs with other singers on their songs and I think this song was the perfect time to introduce Phoebe. Her voice is so soft and flows so perfectly with Matty’s voice and with the horn playing during the chorus.
“So if we turn into a tree, can I be the leaves?”
10. “Roadkill” – This is The 1975-meets-country-western and I honestly kind of love it. It makes me want to kick up my boots in a dusty old bar and order whiskey on the rocks. The lyrics are kind of all over the place - Matty mentions it was written about touring in America and that explains the country-western vibe.
“If you don’t shoot, then you’ll never know – You should’ve learnt that quite a while ago” 11. “Me & You Together Song” – This track is dreamy and bouncy but still sounds like rock music, it’s very much reminiscent of the band’s 2013 EPs. They took that aspect of their music and combined it with the edgy and energetic early 2000’s music such as Third Eye Blind. They wanted to go back to the basics and deconstruct their music, this is another song that accomplishes a lot with few lyrics. “I’m sorry that I’m kind of queer – It’s not as weird as it appears” 12. “I Think There’s Something You Should Know” – Matty opens up about his depression by subtly talking about not feeling himself and wanting to open up to someone. The track feels like dance, house, indie-pop music that they morphed into a futuristic-sounding song about mental health.
13. “Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied” – This track reminds me of the band's second album because of the gospel vocals, slow intro, distant yelling, and the hip-hop vibe. I love it when a song has strong vocals and no music playing in the background, similar to my favorite song by the band, “Heart Out” which is also referenced through another Easter egg on this track.
“You can’t figure out a heart, you were lying”
14. “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)” – The “Music for Cars” era has featured a lot of autotune, especially on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and the beginning of this song sounds like the 90’s R&B song intros. After the chorus, it turns upbeat and fun and makes you want to dance and sing along, it’s something done really well on this album. “They should take this pain – and give it a name”
15. “Shiny Collarbone” – This song sounds exactly what the title makes it seem like it’ll sound. Jamaican musician Cutty Ranks did all of the vocals for this track, it’s very electric and glitchy. The end switches to be a bit more choppy and abrupt, each lyric is cut off during the middle of the sentence and the beat changes from an 80’s nightclub scene to a slight 4 am EDM stage at Bonnaroo scene. “Killing resulting in microphone culture”
16. “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” – Matty mentions that it is the most 1975 sounding song on the record. It’s just that sound that has completely embodied their music and they have somehow taken every aspect of the band and put it into this song - glittery, energetic, and makes you want to dance and jump around listening to it with all of your friends. The music video is in black and white and Matty has the sides of his head shaved. If you’ve been a fan of The 1975 for a while, this song is The 1975 through and through. I cannot get over how good it is. “All the time, I just wanted a happy ending”
17. “Playing On My Mind” – You can tell the lyrics are a stroll through Matty’s brain and a collection of different thoughts. It’s one of the only fully acoustic songs on the album; the band was able to focus more on the words and the structure of those words together instead of some electric beat. “The truth is that I still adore you – And nothing really matters anyway”
18. “Having No Head” – Drummer George Daniel composed this song almost entirely himself. The track starts off with one beat and switches halfway through, then one more time before the song ends. It’s very techy and expresses so much emotion and feeling without having any lyrics.
19. “What Should I Say” – This track is so cool. The autotunes and beat make it the perfect electro-pop song. There are ghostly vocals featured in the chorus provided by FKA Twigs and they modified her voice to sound like an instrument. It’s the only song on this album that sounds like this, it’s electronic in a way that the other tracks aren’t, she makes the song what it is.
“Making sure that people won’t change – Disorder, hate, and fame”
20. “Bagsy Not In Net” – It’s another song that doesn’t have a lot of parts, there’s few lyrics and a consistent string/electronic beat featured throughout. It feels like a filler song, something they wanted to be there but didn’t know where to put it.
“And leaving you here is the thing I fear, so I fight it”
21. “Don’t Worry” – The story behind this track is what really made me fall in love with it. On the Spotify storyline and in an interview with Apple Music, Matty says the song was originally written by his father, Tim Healy, in the ’90s. It was one of the first songs that Matty had ever heard. Anybody can create music, but when you break that down and think about where that influence came from and make it your own is when you really become a great artist. “Don’t worry, darling, the sun will shine through”
22. “Guys” – The band made a spin-off of one of their classic songs “Girls” which is about lust for women and made a song about their love for each other with “Guys.” Matty has never been one to write about his platonic relationships. This song marks the end of an era for The 1975; Matty was able to reflect on all the things the band has been through together. The music video also features a lot of old moments of the band. I hope that this isn’t “the end” for them completely, but if it is, this track was the perfect way to end it. “The moment that we started a band – was the best thing that ever happened”
This is my favorite project The 1975 have done. It embodies the band perfectly and tells their story about the sound of their music, the lyrics they write, and the things they believe in and think.
It’s a long-winded story about The 1975 – not an album by The 1975.