Sunday, December 6, 2015

Blue Neighbourhood | Troye Sivan



Team Internet, all hands in: we have another success story.

Twenty year old Troye Sivan has outgrown the safe haven of his YouTube channel. Once home to challenges, collaborations, question and answer sessions, and the typical YouTuber nonsense, his personal channel has been forced into the backseat in the speeding vehicle that is his career by his music career. Wild, his second major label extended play, was released in September of this year, debuting at number five on the Billboard 200. But just when we thought that was all for him this year, he announces Blue Neighbourhood, his debut full-length album.

Since the release of Wild, Sivan has been subject to endless comparisons to Lorde and Halsey, his female counterparts in the industry. Sonically, perhaps this comparison is fair; all three youngsters are reliant on sharp drum machines and seas of synths, undeniably viral products of a post-Lana Del Rey landscape. But under the scope of lyrical analysis, Sivan is easily the most sincere of the three. While Lorde operates through the guise of poetic sophistication and Halsey's forte lies in the power of the concept album, Sivan can be no more than himself.

Whether he's reflecting on love or on the past, he does so with honest emotion. "Talk Me Down," which stylistically walks the line between dreary and dreamy, insinuates suicide and begs for comfort: "I want to sleep next to you / But that's all I want to do right now / So come over now and talk me down." On a more bittersweet, carefree moment, he gushes with nostalgia over his hometown on closing note "Suburbia," singing, "Yeah, there's so much history in these streets / And mama's good eats / Oh Wonder on repeat / There's so much history in my head / The people I've left / The ones that I've kept." The unrefined personality is perhaps the most important, though, on "Heaven," the crowning jewel of this album that should resonate with a fair amount of LGBT+ listeners; he points a finger at the conflict of interest between living openly as a gay man and subscribing to a religion that can be manipulated to condemn him to eternal damnation, proclaiming, "So if I'm losing a piece of me / Maybe I don't want heaven."

All of these emotions are expressed through a butter-smooth voice -- though technically a baritone, Sivan's voice carries itself with the light tonality of a tenor -- over dusky alt-pop soundscapes that were expected, and quite frankly, wanted from him. Those productions, despite being sourced from a handful of people, are consistent and leave room in sonic space to highlight his voice, yet each song has gleaming, distinct strengths. The chorus of "Lost Boy" is a magical moment, as two vocal stems, one in a lower, raspy tone and a lighter one repeating the melody an octave above, converge and supersede the importance of the backdrop, while the power of "Youth" is shared between the anthemic chorus ("My youth / My youth is yours / Tripping on skies, sipping waterfalls") and booming instrumental post-chorus.

This 35-minute offering is split into three-and-a-half minute bursts of raw emotion; it's of a quality that couldn't have been predicted by even the Wild extended play. In fact, the album's most notable misstep -- Allday's rap in "for him." -- isn't even a fault of his own. The best cuts from that release ("Wild," "Fools," and "Ease") have been carried over to this album, but the seven new tracks are written with a striking amount of personality that hadn't been displayed in any of his work until now. While he brings nothing new to the table sonically, Troye Sivan works the genre well and teaches our generation a thing or two about sincerity and uninhibited expression along the way.

Blue Neighbourhood is out now under Capitol Records. Standard and deluxe editions are available. Exclusive pressings can be found at Target department stores.

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