Release Date: Oct 2, 2019
Record label: Italians Do It Better
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
Kill for Love and its predecessor Night Drive are about as influential as any albums in modern history, with their unique sound design building on the already-established noir-electro hallmark of their record label, Italians Do It Better, and spreading the resulting hybrid sound like wildfire into all available visual and sonic media. Chromatics songs have featured in countless TV shows (from Mr. Robot to Riverdale, Twin Peaks: The Return to Gossip Girl), and in almost as many movies, most famously the gorgeous Ryan Gosling vehicle Drive, which launched Chromatics and Italians Do It Better label head Johnny Jewel into a much wider arena than they/he could ever have imagined.
Across nearly 200 releases, L.A.-based producer Johnny Jewel's Italians Do It Better label has perfected an unmistakable aesthetic. While the music ranges from abstract instrumentals to sugary synth-pop, the design of each record envisions its creators as would-be movie stars and their music as the cult classics we ought to remember them for. Few of the label's many acts play so directly into the conceit as Chromatics.
It's best to think of Chromatics' long-awaited sixth release, Dear Tommy, as an illusion. Instead of Tommy, now five years in the making and with no signs of it ever releasing, the Portland electro-pop purveyors respond to that album's deliberately mythical status with Closer to Grey—45 minutes of new material that should whet the appetite of anyone who's heard isolated snippets of frontman Johnny Jewel's problem child. It's a clear indicator that Jewel wants us to turn our attention away from Tommy, at least for the time being (on Chromatics' official website, it still shows up as an upcoming release with blank spaces filling the numbers on the tracklist).
Not long after delivering their 2012 magnum opus Kill for Love, the eternally enigmatic Chromatics announced its follow up, a monolithic and shadowy collection called Dear Tommy. Track listings and album art were shared as early as 2014 for Dear Tommy, which would be the band's fifth proper album, and their producer Johnny Jewel leaked songs online and discussed the album in interviews as if it were just around the corner. Fast forward to 2019, and Dear Tommy had yet to materialize when new full-length Closer to Grey arrived without notice in early October.
The Lowdown: Chromatics are no strangers to theatrics — with multiple rumors of physically destroyed albums and re-recordings of them and a slow trickle of releases from a never-released sixth studio album called Dear Tommy. What's being called the band's seventh studio album, Closer to Grey was surprise-released October 2nd at midnight. The band's former manager previously released a Twitter timeline explaining the destroyed sixth album and the reason for multiple singles that had disappeared from the Internet awaiting the album's re-recorded "official release." Fans may still be awaiting the release of Dear Tommy, but this is not that album.
When Twin Peaks returned after a 25-year hiatus, David Lynch tapped Johnny Jewel for help with the score. Most of the music wasn't used (and was later released separately), but the series featured two performances from Chromatics, Jewel's most famous band. It's not surprising that Lynch would turn to Jewel: much of his solo music concerns scoring film and television, real and imaginary, while projects like Chromatics were basically designed for film and television, referencing '80s new wave, rock and disco with a detached cool.