“American Television” has a fantastic album cover. The cute little diorama is inviting and intriguing. A few fluttery synth notes and an excellently produced snare hit signal the beginning of “ILYS,” the similarly inviting opener, and perhaps the strongest song on this album. “ILYS” is perfect declaration of identity for Georgey V, especially paired with this art; unobtrusive, default-sound synths, laid back rhythm, a homely DIY indie aesthetic, and earnest, straightforward lyrics with a wistful melody that glides through the song. There’s a bit of messiness to the performances, maybe even laziness, but it’s evidently part of the carefully curated lo-fi vibe; it’s all clearly meant to be interpreted as cute and cozy, straight-from-the-bedroom.
This aesthetic is more or less unchanged as the album carries on, although the songwriting style shifts as they cycle through different obvious influences. “Bedroom Fading,” with its pulsing guitar and brooding vocal line, could be a Cryptograms-era Deerhunter song for the first 30 seconds (before a middling synth line appears, and the flatness of the production begins to stand out). “Mother Dearest” is more-or-less a Beatles song (or maybe an early of Montreal song would be a more apt comparison; the bedroom production and slightly more modern guitar sounds recall 90s lo-fi more so than the 60s music it borrows so much from). Other tracks escape obvious comparisons to well-known acts, giving Georgey V the space for originality, as on the track “Daydreamer,” a gentle waltz decorated by a cheesy organ. The verse melody on “Only One” is lovely and nostalgic, and the chorus bursts at the seams, one of the louder, bolder moments on the album. It’s undermined, however, by a vocal performance that gives the impression that he’s clogging his nose, especially when he sings the already-eye-roll-inducing line “happiness and misery is fine with me,” undermining what little emotional impact is contained in the puddle-deep words. At the start of the following verse, the drummer plays on the rims of the snare, a surprisingly effective way to alter the mood of the song (effective because of the lack of aesthetic variation elsewhere on the album), but this lasts for just one line before a terribly awkward drum fill returns the song to its perfectly fine, if relatively uninteresting, starting position.
That’s precisely the central problem with this album- it’s fine. It’s nice. It’s actually difficult to say anything about it at all, because almost every song is unobtrusive, pleasant, and flatly unremarkable. The standout moments only stand out due to their difference from the same-y sonic terrain, not necessarily because they’re particularly musically interesting. Some moments actually stand out because of what isn’t there- Georgey V seems to repeatedly set up the music for something greater than what he ends up with. The chorus of “ILYS” listlessly repeats “I love you so” killing the momentum of the song; “Floater” has enough energy to pop, but gives way to an aimless guitar solo. A thudding low tone adds an interesting texture onto the end of “Bedroom Fading,” a nice antidote to the generic platitudinous lyrics (“maybe I’d be better off if I didn’t have any feelings”), but it’s merely an afterthought. It wouldn’t have been terribly difficult to make any of these instances more interesting or effective than they are, especially because so much of this album feels like it’s there just to be there. Most of the guitar or keyboard solos on this album sound like a rough draft, as if he recorded it once or twice, decided it was fine, and moved on without a second thought. “Tower of Hera,” the worst offender, begins with a stomping indie disco beat, perking up the ears of a listener looking for something interesting to latch onto, but then a tambourine and a goofy, fluty melody turn it into some kind of off-kilter Russian folk song, capped off by an utterly ridiculous whirring UFO synth. Thankfully, the closer, “Wizard,” returns to being merely inoffensive as opposed to irritating.
When the album is over, the music doesn’t simply stop, but rather just leaves awkwardly, as if in the middle of a conversation. It leaves with a decisively nondescript taste- a resounding eh. The title “American Television” seems to suggest an ambitious goal of encompassing the uniquely exciting and depressing experience of watching TV, but after listening, it’s clear that the title actually just refers to the passive experience of letting the TV wash over you, slouched on the couch. In retrospect, this should have been obvious from the cover, but both the cover and the opening track feel rather unrepresentative of the rest of the album, both pursuing some kind of melancholy reflection that never comes to fruition. In “Daydreamer,” he sings “watching the news/making some sense of it all.” But he appears, rather than making any sense of anything, to be content to let it sit there, unobtrusively existing, as nondescript as the word “indie.”
- Pleasant melodies
- Charming aesthetic
- Nice album art! (Props to Sean Clark)
- Directionless instrumental sections
- Generic lyrics
- Flat production