Arrange, née Malcom Lacey, garnered a bit of buzz for himself last year on the basis of his fourth release on his Bandcamp and his most fully formed release to date, Plantation. Hailing from Southern Florida, Lacey put forth a refreshing band of downtrodden bedroom pop, reliant as heavily on sequenced beats as on the depressing and strikingly personal lyricism that marks the releases of similar songwriters Perfume Genius and Youth Lagoon. Where Lacey differs from these fellow travelers of the morose, aside from his decidedly lower vocal range, is in his focus on the complexity of the tracks themselves. Where Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas and Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers tend to strip back their accompaniment to its barest elements, on Plantation Lacey put forth something much more complex, for better or worse, than either of those songwriters has ever attempted. Whether through gauzy guitar lines or the insistent boom-clap of tracks like “Tiny Little Boy,” Lacey proved that though he may bear lyrical similarities to these aforementioned songwriters, he’s drawing musically from a different palette entirely. Here on his latest EP, Five Years With The Sun, Lacey proves that his musical ability is heads and shoulders above the majority of songwriters that develop Bandcamp laptop music milieu.
According to Lacey himself, Five Years With The Sun was composed as a farewell to his time in Florida, and that feel is palpable throughout this album. Rather than the one-way conversation with his incarcerated father that the lyrics of Plantation focused on, Five Years — while still melancholy — has a glimmer of hopefulness, at moving up, at moving on. Though the delivery on “Cure,” and likely the lyrics (too much is obscured under the currents of synths to make a definitive statement in that regard), lend some lugubrious nature to the track, there’s this wordless vocalization that comes in a third of the way through the song that seems to suggest a light at the end of the tunnel. The same musical gasp from a Justin Vernon type would be interpreted as the most tangible expression of pain on the track, but something about Lacey’s construction of the track lends it a more positive tone. The way the track builds from near silent synth pads to the pounding percussion makes triumphant a track that could have easily been lachrymose.
Though it would be easy to accuse Lacey of over emoting, both over his whole career, and here on tracks like “Two Garden Children,” there’s something about his lyricism that seems so genuine, that to deride this style would be deriding honesty and openness. Sure, lines like “I’ve tried to mend every scar every day” may come across as a bit over the top on the page, his delivery is enough to make such lines appear visceral and important despite their apparent overwrought nature.
Its often that EPs can become depositories for b-sides or undercooked material, but what Arrange has put forth with this effort is a succinct distillation of everything that has made his previous work so great. The spacey textured soundscapes are still here, the confessional lyricism is still here, and the shades of beat pop are still here, and all in a taut 26 minutes that doesn’t wear out its welcome at any moment. According to a Kickstarter page that Lacey recently launched, his next mini-LP, New Memory, is already in the bag, and given the successes of Plantation and this EP here, it’ll certainly be something stunning.