For the past decade and a half, Chromatics have made throaty, whispered synth-pop albums that stick around. Compared to the rest of their esteemed catalogue, Closer to Grey is not entirely innovative, but it manages to raise the Goosebumps often enough. Old fans will find all the reliable elements here—vocalist Ruth Radelet’s smoky, inscrutable vocals; sonic architect Johnny Jewel’s meticulous textures and synth riffs that might garnish the next West Coast rap hit.
As a piece of continuous music, Closer to Grey proceeds fluidly from track to track, which makes for the kind of album that plays well on rainy walks and better on night-time road trips to nowhere in particular. There are a couple of potential hits, too: the groovy “You’re No Good” is already climbing the Spotify charts, but I’m partial to “Twist the Knife,” a bubbling, eminently danceable call from Radelet’s masochistic protagonist. Closer to Grey also continues Chromatics’ streak of fantastic covers. Radelet’s half-whisper and Jewel’s spacious production give new resonance to Simon and Garfunkel’s classic “Sound of Silence,” perhaps rescuing the once-beloved track’s poignance from the jaws of reddit meme culture. It does not, however, eclipse the triumph that is their homage to Kate Bush (though what can?) Despite all this talk of consistency, there were rumblings that we might have heard the last of Chromatics. After a smattering of uncollected singles and LPs and production delays, Closer to Grey marks Chromatics’ first album—and UK tour—since 2012.
If it cannot stand on its own, Closer to Grey serves as a worthy reminder that Chromatics are a damn good band, even if they stick to their guns. Go see them if you can. Nobody knows when they’ll be back.