A surprisingly diverse lo-fi pop record that sounds a bit like an opiated Wild Nothing meets The Clientele. also touches on the current roster of Funeral Party Records bands, Black Marble, The Cannanes and even kinda sounds like if Woven Hand was an indie-gaze band, which is quite rad. A fantastic blurry-eyed, snowy-foot-shuffle walk home from the bar record, and one of the best of '20 without a doubt.
The latest Constant Smiles album, Control, is a richly atmospheric and rewarding experience, blurring the lines of dreampop, shoegaze, and psych while building its own singular sonic world. The creative force behind the Brooklyn-based group is the prolific songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Ben Jones, who has created dozens of albums’ worth of music in his home studio. Control confronts what he has now named his “destructive creative drive,” and in turning the machine back on itself, he has managed to create his most transformative work to date.
Control follows 2019’s John Waters, and it anchors Jones’s signature reverb-drenched grooves in a palpable intensity. The multi-layered guitar tracks are lush, but there's a crooner’s depth here, akin to the best Chris Isaak songs. Soothing wah-wah pedals and drifting vocals blend with driving drum tracks to hypnotize the listener, while never losing command of their full attention. On standout tracks like “You're on Your Own” and “All Drugs,” Jones and his collaborators wrangle every musical trick they have mastered and infuse them with a bare and poignant vulnerability. The listener is invited into a deeply intimate and personal space to join Jones as he processes an intense period of personal grief through musical alchemy. Across Control’s 12 tracks, you can hear the artist diving deep into his internal conflicts, grappling with addiction, the aforementioned destructive creative drive, and scarring loss.
“Writing, collaborating on and recording Control has been a process of personal transformation as an artist and a person,” Jones says. “During the past year I’ve reexamined everything in my life, and in the process learned to create music and an existence that is more sustainable, letting go of the things I can’t control. This ultimately leads to a deeper pool of creativity.”
In addition to finding greater depths of creativity, Jones has also allowed his vocals to come to the front of the mix more than in previous recordings, and the resulting sound puts Control in the lineage of great singer-songwriters like Elliott Smith.
Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, Jones worked at Aboveground Records, a hub for the tiny island’s surprisingly vibrant arts community and music scene. “Everyone was always playing in each other's bands, home recording, performing. It was amazing,” Jones recalls.
Control taps back into that community, and it’s the most collaborative Constant Smiles record to date. Jones worked with co-producer Mike Mackey, along with a long list of musical kindred spirits, including Spike Currier, Nina Violet, Adam Lipsky, Celeste Glavin, James Whitehead, Sofi Thanhauser, Blaze Bateh, Bridget Collins, and Adam Howell. “I love that you can create a whole world within an album,” Jones says of the process of collaboration for Control. “You expand the dimensions and richness of that world by including other people’s songs in the mix, keeping the collective spirit of the community alive.”
released June 19, 2020
All songs written, played, and produced by Constant Smiles as part of the New York Trilogy
Except "Swells" by Adam Howell & Constant Smiles
Recorded in The Ashram, The Void, The Backshack, and Leanne’s House in 2018/19
Mastered by Matthew Cullen
Mastered for vinyl by Adam Boose at Cauliflower Audio
Cover layout by David Correll
Back cover layout by Nick Kulp
Images Scans by Julian Master
Special thanks to: Caleb Braaten, David Correll, Mike Mackey,
Adam Lipsky, Jeff Conklin, Mike Barnes, Celeste Glavin, Spike Currier,
WVVY, Drawing Guts, Bridget Collins, Brad Sanders, Ben Goldberg,
WFMU, Dan O’Connell, Will Roan, Carrie Schaff, Rachel Negro,
Blaze Bateh, Chris Liberato, Maya & Gardner, Farley Glavin,
Matthew James-Wilson, Matthew Cullen, Adam Sierzputowski,
Kevin Cornell, Walter Malsch, Jeanne Staples, Doug Jones,
and Leanne Emerton