If I were to describe the level of laughter that J Fernandez’s new album generates, I’d put it in the low chuckle range. His lo-fi take on baroque bedroom-pop is covered in squiggly analogue fuzz, like on “Holy Hesitation” but branches off into everything from free-jazz interpolations on “Filled With Joy” to the uneasy MIDI melancholy of “Apophis.” Fernandez pens lyrics that lean into one another, piling up in the corners of his songs while the warped melodies and warbling synths drone on and on. Not that the lyrics aren’t important, but like laughter, his music renders itself more in tonalities than in literal meanings. For instance, on “Casual Encounter,” over an organ that sounds like it’s being fast-forwarded, he sings, “Please don’t listen to me/ please don’t listen to me” — a phrase that fundamentally denies itself every time it’s heard; an enigma like that might make you laugh, maybe even chuckle. Swirling in his mix of psychedelia, blunted pop and hazy experimentalism, there’s plenty more to laugh and ponder. Listen.
Many Levels of Laughter is out 6/6 via Joyful Noise. Pre-order it here.