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Mat Cothran began Elvis Depressedly as a side project, complementing his work under the Coma Cinema moniker. However, over the past few years, it would seem as though the side project has become the main one, at least in terms of attention. Since 2011, we've had six Elvis Depressedly releases, with songs like 'pepsi/coke suicide' from 2013's Holo Pleasures and 'jesus rots inside his grave' from 2011's Goner standing as highlights among a vast array of gloomy lo-fi pop triumphs. They subverted preconceived notions of what pop songs were supposed to be about (the latter, like many of the songs from this South Carolina-native, uses religious imagery while putting forth a rhetorical inquiry, somewhat jokingly, as to whether or not premarital sex will ruin this generation's chances at a good afterlife). Now, having signed with the acclaimed Run For Cover Records, Cothran and his cohort Delaney Mills have attempted to keep the success pushing forward on their seventh release, and first true full-length, New Alhambra.

Cothran has always had a penchant for humour that drips with bitter cynicism, so when the first track from New Alhambra was released, a song entitled 'n.m.s.s.,' it was hard not to stifle a hearty chuckle when this "sad band" front man started off by whispering, "No more sad songs." But this proclamation is, by and large, true. The melancholic self-loathing of records past is gone. Instead, this album represents a shift from pessimistic frustration to vulnerable optimism. There is a certain fragility to Cothran's warm, nasally voice as he asserts that he has loved "everyone that [he] has ever known." It's this vocal delicacy, coupled with the intimacy of the instrumentation, that allows Cothran to convey a tremendous range of emotion.

The lo-fi aesthetic that defined the sonics of previous Elvis Depressedly releases has been mostly wiped away. Cothran and Mills have clearly laboured to create a cleaner, more polished record that adequately reflects the thematic shift they have made. While I must admit that I missed some of the fuzzier keyboard parts from past releases, Mills' abilities have been given the space to recognize their full potential. Likewise, Cothran's unique vocals and guitar parts feel as though they are enjoying the atmospheric space of a Joy Division record rather than the cramped environment of his living room.

The numerous themes of New Alhambra, most of which are focused on joy and optimism, are offset by more depressing imagery and ideas. Using religion and wrestling, specifically the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit (referenced on tracks such as 'thou shall not murder'), as parallel guides to his new found direction, Cothran is able to display a level of complexity to his music that will allow it to continue to appeal to his core audience of weary youngsters.

New Alhambra is a high mark for Elvis Depressedly. The record's ability to be simultaneously dense and accessible, joyful and thoughtful, inspiring and cautionary, allows it to make a case for being an essential record for anyone in their twenties. Cothran has clearly reflected and assessed himself and life around him thoroughly, making his voice and his music a strong point of reference for any young person looking for direction in this messed up world.

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