The 1975 were teasing the existence of Notes On A Conditional Form before 2018’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships had even come out. The band’s upcoming fourth album was recorded in more than a dozen studios, including on their American tour bus. The end result includes 22 tracks and runs for 80 minutes.
Singer Matty Healy explained the rationale to Vice. “My whole plan was, I’m going to do two records because the zeitgeist is like that,” he said. “I want it to be real time expression – I want to basically continuously release music over a time where you would do one album.
“I put out A Brief Inquiry and then seven months later I put out ‘People’ and [‘The 1975’] and then I continued to put out music every month until the album came out.”
Here’s a recap of the seven singles released in the lead up to Notes On a Conditional Form. The eponymous Greta Thunberg-featuring opener is excluded from this list.
7. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’:
Notes takes the genre-melding thrust of A Brief Inquiry and runs with it. But some of the record’s most refreshing moments come when The 1975 sound like a group of guys in a room together. Single number six ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ fits this profile. Healy told the UK’s Capital FM that the song is about trusting their instincts.
“We’ve been in lots of different places, emotionally and mentally, and sometimes I get a bit like, ‘It has to change the world,’” he said. “Whereas sometimes I think that pop music can do that in a slightly different way.”
6. ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’:
Phoebe Bridgers joins Healy on this acoustic emo ballad, which nods to Bridgers’ hero Elliott Smith. The lyrics expose the tension that arises when one’s faith clashes with one’s sexual preferences. Healy and Bridgers make lovely duet partners, carrying the song with restraint and avoiding a tacky crescendo.
‘Guys’ came about when Healy wanted to write a song about how much he loves his mates. His best mates, the band’s other three members, have been by his side since he was 13. “And we’re really lucky that we love each other so much,” he told Beats 1.
“We’ve been together so long that we’re like brothers. It’s the last track on the record and it’s kind of just about how much I love my mates.” It’s apt that ‘Guys’ is one of the record’s more straight-up, guitar-led pop rock songs.
4. ‘The Birthday Party’:
Is that a banjo? Shit – is this The 1975’s country detour? As unnerving as this prospect sounds, The 1975 are up to the task, avoiding the cringe-zone on ‘The Birthday Party’. The laidback arrangement is indicative of Healy’s disinterest in parties as he settles into his 30s.
“I was gonna do a song that was like, what it was like to be at a house party at 20, 25, and 29,” he told Dazed. “But then I realised I don’t need to do it, I just need to do what it’s like now, because my career has been what it’s been like to be at a house party at 20, 25, and 29.”
3. ‘Frail State of Mind’:
‘Frail State of Mind’ came out in October 2019, but the song’s opening lyric has felt especially pertinent since coronavirus lockdowns came into effect. “Go outside? Seems unlikely,” sings Healy. It’s one of several Notes tracks to utilise electronic instrumentation. The beat owes debt to UK garage, but Healy’s emotive lead vocal prevents it from feeling like inorganic addition to The 1975 repertoire.
The 1975 have always looked like an angsty emo band, but they’ve consciously aligned themselves with major key signatures. As Healy told Pitchfork, “My whole career has been presenting the apocalyptic sense of being a teenager in a major key.”
Healy lets loose on Notes’ first official single, ‘People’. It’s the band’s heaviest song to date, and includes a series of reprovals like “Wake up, wake up, wake up, we are appalling and we need to stop just watching shit in bed.” But even despite the bristling anger, it’s all done in a major key (C major to be precise).
1. ‘Me & You Together Song’:
‘Me & You Together Song’ possesses a beautiful, near-blinding shimmer. It’s perhaps the best representation of Healy’s idealised understanding of The 1975 sound. “We always talk about a type of music we call ‘faded splendour,’” he told Beats 1. “Pop songs that sound like they’re drowning. Our favourite music is music that’s inherently beautiful, if not pretty, but fractured and a bit jangly or a bit overly distorted.” That precisely sums up ‘Me & You Together Song’.