People talk about disaffection like it’s a bad thing. It’s a front, a screen you put up to stymie your real feelings, the ones that would come bubbling on up if only you made honest art. Or so the myth of ironic detachment goes. But what about those that are true to their apathy? Steve Sobs doesn’t make sad songs so much as he makes bored songs, songs ripe with ennui, songs on the verge of going limp.
Brooklyn’s Eric Littmann, the guy behind the pun, has got the driest drawl you’ll hear for a while. He sings through a sheet of effects and dawdles around his melodies. “Oh, how I loved you,” he sings on a song called “Ugh”, and he’s not joking with the romanticism of that gesture. It’s just that he drools the words like he’s forgotten what it felt like to mean them.
Steve Sobs’ first tape, Heavy Heart, is an understated length of bedroom pop that embraces weirdness and contradiction. It wears a pleasant skin and grows uncomfortable once you listen past it. “Maybe it’s time to give up,” Littmann sings on “Giveup”. “Maybe you tried.” The song drifts as gently as a lullaby, like Kimya Dawson with her humanism swapped out for a comforting bleakness. It’s still humanistic, in a way.
“Ugh”, in particular, is paradoxically catchy. I don’t think Littmann hits more than three notes on the vocal line throughout its four minutes, and yet they’re four minutes that will glue themselves to your brain matter. He supports those staid, hollow vox with a mesh of playful guitar lines. The way he clips his tight acoustic downstrokes lets them melt into the drums, giving the bass room to weasel around the melodies he’d be singing in a more conventional pop song. The tune blooms on itself with a fringe of strings and synths. There is a lot going on for something that sounds so lightweight.
“You’re in your hometown making rounds,” he sings in his peculiar affect. “Your whole world’s like a time capsule better unfound.” Wait a minute. This isn’t light at all.
Essential Tracks: “Ugh”, “Giveup”