It's hard to judge an album that's a follow up to something you love and cherish, especially if the previous album was the artists debut. You know the first offering so well, and when you don't find that immediate connection to the sophomore effort you retreat back to what you loved. Oddly enough, it's almost better to have a good debut than a great one, you have room to grow and evolve, but when you start with something great the fans just want more. Despite knowing this, I'm not immune to it. You can't force yourself to love something, it has to come naturally (look at me with the life lesson!). This brings us to Rennen, SOHN's follow up to one of my favorite records from 2014, Tremors, and the subject of my internal battle.
I knew Tremors (which I posted in full to the right) was going to be an addiction a minute and half into the record. There are sounds that often seem built to your preferences, as if you're predisposed to enjoy it. It happens every year, Alt-J in 2012, Mree in 2013, SOHN in 2014; the list goes on and on. Tremors was, above all else, different, despite it's strength being a style that was put to work by countless other artists, his brand was unique. I can't tell you specifically spoke to me, that's the way it is with these things sometimes, it's just...good. Good and addictive. As hell. Good and addictive as hell. Praise be. Unfortunately we don't have the same situation when it comes to Rennen.
I've listened to this record a couple times everyday for the last week and I've gotta say, it's a serious let down. The album isn't bad, it has it's moments, but not being bad doesn't make it good. The approach that hooked me from the first album has dissolved, most tracks playing like watered down versions of Tremors finest, an album which touted at least five songs that are better than Rennen's best (the opener "Hard Liquor" and the closer "Harbour," which is really good). Maybe if he had more songs that started with an H? The fact that he did craft a few really good tracks means the talent and spirit is there, which then begs the question, where are the rest?
There are a couple other takeaways, like the album's title track, the simplistic, piano driven "Rennen." This step back in terms of complexity actually felt like a step forward, it was a relaxed and patient effort. But while his patience was rewarded in that instance, this album as a whole tested mine as I found myself wanting to press skip more often than not. This record just doesn't have "it." The originality and life of his debut seems to have been removed, and what could have been a continued path of creativity and innovation is instead an exercise in mundanity.
You might be thinking, "Spense, don't be so sad, the album might grow on you!" Well, you might be right concerned super fan, but I know the feeling of listening to an album that has potential, and as badly as I want to believe in this one, I know that I'll be back with SOHN's debut, praying for a glorious comeback. In the meantime, Bonobo and The xx will keep my meditative mid-tempo dreams alive. Until next time old friend.