break-up albums are a dime a dozen; there’s no skirting around that fact. the bevy of emotions available for dissection are second only to perhaps the subject of death, but the prospect of lost love can at least offer some more surface-level optimism. rarer is the good break-up album; wallowing in self-pity tastes stale very quickly, and male artists have the capacity to rely on extended misogynistic passages that all but incriminate them in the relationship’s demise. throughout chad valley’s gorgeous new album entirely new blue, hugo manuel is on the outside smartly looking in at lost romance, offering up a mixture of soft apologies, poignant reflections, and firm resolutions.
manuel meets this complex spectrum of emotions head-on almost immediately with “true.” the second cut on the album is its first cohesive thought and is predicated on the returning phrase “my mind is all but made up,” the key portion being the word “all.” manuel shifts from pleas for forgiveness to a proclamation of unclouded vision throughout the song; by the end of “true,” his principle statement is adamant.
entirely new blue should also be commended on the quality and diversity of its production, which runs the gamut from spectacularly downtrodden to joyously buoyant, not necessarily in tandem with its lyrical counterpart. the sputtering backbeat and intermittent synth stabs throughout “arms away” seemingly ready the track for the dance floor, though it – along with fellow earworm “not that man” – feature testaments of self-examination that bely their major-key exteriors. a more predictable alignment occurs on ballad centerpiece “seventeen,” though through the outward gloom emerges a rather surprising and encouraging phrase: “i’m much happier than you think.”
chad valley has always felt like a detail-oriented project, and entirely new blue is no exception. the vocal layering gets more and more impressive with every listen, be it manuel harmonizing with himself over the same lyrical material, slowly bringing simultaneous and contrasting thoughts into the foreground of the mix, or dueting with someone else entirely on “labasa” and “good brains.” the album’s concise nature has already been touched on, but this attribute extends down to the tracks themselves; even longer cuts like “seventeen” and “labasa” retain freshness with sudden introductions of pulse and subtle shifts in timbre.
by the time album closer “alisa” hits, entirely new blue seems like it should have traversed the waters of a break up and emerged on the other shore victorious; instead, “alisa” is manuel’s most impassioned, direct plea yet, its vulnerability contrasting the track’s surging, anthemic qualities. and maybe that’s the whole point; maybe entirely new blue is a stark reminder of the harshness and non-linear progression of reality, but the beauty of chad valley is manuel’s ability to saturate these faults in warm, soothing polychrome. entirely new blue is entirely therapeutic. listen.