At 22, Pasadena songwriter Charlie Hickey sits astride the chain-link fence between youth and maturity. His debut EP, Depend the Stairs—launched on Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Manufacturing facility imprint—positioned him as the subsequent existential soft-rock wunderkind within the Bridgers household tree, not removed from common collaborators Christian Lee Hutson and Harrison Whitford. However Hickey forgoes their gritty melancholy: Nervous at Night time, his debut full-length, lingers within the sometimes too-twee area between bed room and pop as he navigates the travails of rising up.
“Nobody right here has to pay their hire/Nicely, it’s not like I do,” Hickey quipped on final yr’s dancey single “Ten Ft Tall.” On Nervous at Night time, he saves the social satire for the soulful, quasi-R&B of “Springbreaker” (“Springbreaker, you mentioned you ended up on the chateau/What does that imply?/As if that may very well be an accident”) however principally channels his wit into affection, penning couplets match for ironist valentines. On “Lacking Years,” Hickey loses his faux ID—and metonymically his id—however when he’s along with his love curiosity, he sings, he’s “not lacking.” Producer Marshall Vore, one other Bridgers affiliate, submerges these acoustic confessionals in watery electronics, stacking manufacturing to simulate a boombox on the backside of a pool. Blue and lurid, a way of murky, digitized isolation oozes from the vocoder and staticky percussion. The unreal 8-track textures scrub away the sting of emo gloom from Hickey’s earlier music, giving “Lacking Years” the waltzy sparkle of Jimmy Eat World’s “Hear You Me.”
On tracks that operate as paroxysms of guilt, self-loathing, or easy insecurity, Hickey sings with refreshing open-heartedness. His lyrics can learn like drunk texts—“Couldn’t deliver myself to get that cracked display mounted/So once you despatched me your love, I solely bought half of it,” he sings on the weak piano ballad “Choir Track (I Really feel Dumb)”—however their half-treacle, half-truth yields the unfiltered immediacy and unintended knowledge of AIM away statuses. Wealthy with references to cultural ephemera—Love Island, Name of Responsibility, Zipcar—the file’s zeitgeisty Gen Z nostalgia enhances extra than simply its scene-setting. On opener “Dandelions,” Hickey recollects seeing 12 Guidelines for Life in a bookstore and mourns the halcyon, dandelion-wishing days earlier than he knew the darkness of the world or Jordan Peterson’s viral tirades. The track’s dissociative synths and omniscient future tense (the “Canadian physician… would overdose on Klonopin, subsequent yr this time”) deftly depict an individual trapped between craving and anticipation.
The title observe is the lifetime of the social gathering, exhibiting up late however bringing the booze. With glittery guitars and a pre-chorus that recollects the antsy zeal of Boys Like Women, Hickey scores an uptempo pop hit with a windows-down breathless chorus. “I don’t drive, I don’t have a automotive/I’ll nonetheless meet you wherever you’re,” he sings, and it seems like we’re already off and operating. The fantasy falters when Hickey reaches for trite paradoxes—worrying his silence was loud, fearing arriving greater than flying—or loses specificity to fill the meter. However he vies to redeem himself by literalizing clichés, as in “Lacking Years,” the place his crush crashes into his life, totaling their automotive.