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Rick Christian’s “The New Normal”

Channeling vibes of mid-2000s vibes and a little bit of Georgio Moroder, Rick Christian’s “The New Normal” is an intriguing and thoughtful examination of the troubles of the past year. A deeply reactionary and in turn personal album relaying the troubles and pain of the pandemic era that we’re still in, Christian crafts some beautiful tracks with evocative lyrics. Setting the stage with the aptly titled “The human race”, Christian takes a more universal ennui feeling with an especially memorable lyrical composition of wanting a lover, no doubt an extension of the want for companionship that many have wanted during the isolating time.

At first, Christian’s vocals might be a bit off-putting. It’s never decidedly on key, but I’d argue it’s for the better. It maintains a human component that probably would have been lost if it became overwhelmingly auto-tuned instead of the tasteful distortion you find here. “Holiday in Covid” feels like a throwback to the Aphex Twin droning tracks that bank on a lot of repetition to really get its effects sunk into the listener. It reminds me of a lot of latter-day Chemical Brothers’ work with a lot of unexpected composition offset by straightforward and stripped-back instrumentals but with mouthy lyrics in between the chorus. “I can’t trust the system anymore” is one of the primary lyrics that get a soft scream, twisted and bent in the vocals that act as a particularly poignant artistic choice.

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“Wondering” is a slower-paced track that acts as a nice refrain from the more half dance jams/ half trash mood pieces and is a great example of the atmospheric pleasures the album holds. I do wish in this track the vocal distortion was taken off. Christian has a good voice and here would have been a great time to show it off and add a more human touch. “When I’m Walking I’m All Alone” he says and there’s something about the way he says “Wondering” that sounds a lot like he’s saying “Wondering” and it’s a great touch that adds a layered element to this character study of a song. “A great reset” continues the slower streak anthems, but with a pulsing synth bass as Christian Channels, a bit of “Comfortably Numb” vocals with a mix of “Kid A” era Radiohead sounds. It’s truly one of the album highlights and I’d argue that the record honestly gets better and better as it goes along, which is impressive considering it already starts strong. “After 8pm” is maybe one of the weaker tracks on the album. The pace is slower than even the previous slow burns and the lyrics are a mouthful in comparison to the melodic simple beat.

The lyrics are still memorable however with the great hook that is the chorus. “Machine” picks the pace back up noticeably and harkens back to the more industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails and acts as a great lead in to the finale “Outside Looking In”, which ostensibly feels like the credits to this film-like journey. Those wanting a journey of a record through an almost modern post-apocalypse, look no further than what Rick Christian offers.

Mindy McCall

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