I haven’t met Mat Cothran personally, but listening to his band Coma Cinema’s latest release (via cassette) makes me feel as though we’d known each other our whole lives. Like we’re… soul mates. Yeah, that all sounds a little homo-erotic and emo and everything, but damnit, Stoned Alone feels like our breakup record. Mat, are we breaking up? Already? Maybe it’s because I’m going through some pretty heavy changes in my own life right now, or maybe it’s because Mr. Cothran is going through something (actually, it definitely sounds like he is), but either way, for the past two weeks Cothran’s lyrics have slowly seeped their way into my melancholic head as if they were written in a secret diary I found but shouldn’t have. A man comparing being high with suicide and finding a comfortable spot there. He’s lonely, but is loneliness just his place? Cothran’s work is personal to the degree that it’s not inviting listeners in, rather offering up something of a self-portrait meant to be looked at, almost pushing away sympathetic ears. Instead, Stoned Alone is empathy in sound. It’s gorgeous enough to draw a tear, and no matter how hard he pushes, you’ll still want to be closer to Coma Cinema.
The first thing I noticed about Stoned Alone is how direct it is. The album’s tracks rarely offer listeners an intro or reference point; they simply start with the band and Cothran’s meek and charmingly off-tune vocals, which remain largely at the front of the mix, emphasizing the beautiful poetry to be found within. The band is only modestly good here, as well. But take that statement for what it is (read: not a diss). The drums sort of stumble into rhythmic stasis through some off-kilter fills, and light arrangements of horns creep into the production in a way that sounds definitely self-taught, performed, and recorded. But a sparkling kind of sound would not suit Coma Cinema’s aesthetic, which is grounded in things like honesty, modesty, and shyness. As such, the parts here add up to a refreshing whole that is neighborly, bedroomy, young, and impressionable. The songs themselves are often genius, especially “Come on Apathy!” with its revolving-door flow of verses. In all honesty, this was one of the hardest records in recent memory to come up with a set of “RIYL” artists to compare to, and though the ones I chose sort of work, there’s really not a lot out there that sounds quite like Coma Cinema, even though the music is so consistently approachable and familiar (the closest is probably City of Daughters-era Destroyer). With some truly beautiful ballads, light indie-pop, and a refreshingly honest approach, this introduction to Coma Cinema is just about perfect, and it’s because of its imperfections, not in spite of them. A gem you can loosely file in “indie” without necessarily pigeonholing the band unfairly… not so common these days.