Boy in Static’s debut for the Connecticut-based Fake Four Inc. is a lean affair—even with all the strings. Against the smoky and mysterious beauty of the Violet LP (back when the act was only Alex Chen), Candy Cigarette is overexposed. Now a duo, Boy in Static has traded shoegaze for wafer-thin indie-electro pop and a kiddie piano, and Chen has even somehow picked up an odd, wavering vocal inflection that isn’t in remote proximity on the previous record. Strange times indeed for these guys.
Candy Cigarette sinks under the massive weight of its own melodrama. Alex Chen used to channel his closeness to the Cure and to Slowdive into hazy dream sequences, but it’s just kinda hanging out there now. Gone are the near-whispers of Violet, where every moment felt as if he were confessing something awful to the microphone (and a series of effects pedals). Instead, Boy in Static’s vocal tracks are prominently featured in the mix. Each over-enunciated syllable is fitted with almost forced breaths and a newfound tremble that adjourns most verses on the album. Chen’s pipes have little difficulty navigating a much cleaner instrumental base here, and the toy piano appears at nearly every turn. These theatrics, matched with mainstream airwaves-friendly call-and-answer vocal duels on “LA Runaways” and “Star-Crossed Killer” (partly distorted, partly clean of course), soil a frequently promising mix of violins and grown-folk instruments. Beckoning to affluent divorcees works as a humorous centerpiece on the title track, but it’s even funnier to picture these fellas noodling around on a toy piano, all come-hither-like.