No Sleep EP is out now on B3SCI Records
We knew we had to review this EP after the very first boom of the bass in ‘Fever.’ The ethereal yet visceral quality of the synth production of Scottish duo Love Sick traps you somewhere in between the modern musicality of today’s looping pop hits and another world where drum beats and synth takeoffs dominate the charts. That’s the kind of music Love Sick makes: aspirational in the sense that we wish we could harness the desperation necessary to transcend these two musical worlds; alas, for now, we’re stuck in this one. But thankfully, we have the imagery of No Sleep (aptly covered by two mirrored anatomical hearts connected at the top, resembling lungs) to evocatively illustrate the link between our physical and emotional bodies throughout its four tracks.
The duo’s first EP, No Sleep is an homage to their commitment to producing and recording music after working their day jobs (the EP came together during the reverse 9 to 5 – PM to AM). The two initially met at their company holiday party while they were both selling insurance and bonded over similar musical interests. Love Sick’s first single, ‘Bullet,’ was released in September 2017 and was lauded by Elton John (according to here). The artists describe the single as the pendulum swing of unpredictability in love, on how turning yourself over to another person can leave you vulnerable to being hurt. Exploring similar themes on No Sleep, the duo integrates the darkness of synth-pop with syncopated vocals that mimic the songs’ messages of getting torn down and being built back up again after a tumultuous love affair.
‘Fever’ and ‘Medusa’ were first released as a pairing, and stand out as the strongest and darkest tracks. Born from similar threads of what’s left of a destructive relationship, they express bodily pain (whether something the body produces itself as a defensive mechanism, like a fever, or more intentionally inflicted like decapitation) as synonymous for emotional distress said inflictor is causing their willing, but, frustrated partner. In ‘Fever,’ Julie knows she’s made the decision in her own best interest to cut her lover out of her life, but somewhere amid the hooks and loops of the bass and synthesizers, she begins to doubt her own commitment to following through with that decision.
The layered beats, the strings buildup, the low-noted echoey texture of the song: each piece accompanies the lyrical back-and-forth Julie faces after taking this person off their throne and diminishing the power they have over her. In the chorus, the bare beat emphasizes the crash after recognizing that, despite careful analysis of the evidence of what’s left of the relationship and making a measured decision, she’s emotionally fallen into a void that her body interprets as a fever for the other. The lustfulness present shows that one can know the right thing may be to end something, but excising the source of the illness — well that’s an entirely different story.
“Medusa”’s dramatic, anthemic chorus and its cannibalizing metaphors paint a sharper picture of a stunning lack of perception her partner has of their impact on her. It’s an even more succinct and pointed link between physical suffering (“cut my head off”, “turning to stone”) and emotional pain, with only a touch of vengeance. The futile “are you okay?” is a meaningless act toward Julie in this situation — she has reached desperate levels of denial/obsession with making her partner trying to understand her and practically rolls her eyes at the gesture. The chopped-and-screwed background vocal reverberates throughout the song to further illustrate how alone she feels from a partner so disconnected from their words and actions causing her anguish.
‘Predictable’ most closely follows the typical pop-song formula of all the songs on the EP, and somewhat thematically reflects the pendulum swing of their first single, ‘Bullet.’ It describes a decision taken out of Julie’s hands, as opposed to ‘Fever’ where she was struggling with the consequences of her own decision-making, due to the lack of care/emotional investment by her partner, as illustrated in ‘Medusa.’ Despite knowing she can’t control it, Julie’s been here before and can avoid its pitfalls (not breathing in the smoke, for example, and letting it float away). The repetition, which makes this song the most poppy, also directly calls out its subject’s unoriginality by boomeranging her between love and hate.
In both its beats and melodies, “Make It”‘s expansiveness shows the cracks that hope can fall through after two people have the same argument over and over again, fueled by both rage and alcohol. The narrative flips slightly, swinging the pendulum toward Julie, who in this case wants her partner to stop suffocating her and seeks her own solitude instead of feeling forced there. Again, the theme of repetition (“how many times do you think I’ve been told”) comes across through the catchiness of the chorus and the dropped beat as the song falters toward an abrupt end. “Make It”‘s a strong song to end the EP on by leaving everything up in the air.
Love Sick has played only a couple shows to support No Sleep in Scotland and England, and as their streaming numbers creep upward and more attention shines in their direction, we can’t help but hope for the dark pop duo to add more stops across the pond. Stream “FEVER” by Love Sick on the Soundazed: Keep Me Buzzin’ playlist here.