Notes on a Conditional Form

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Notes on a Conditional Form
The 1975 Notes on a Conditional Form Digital.jpg
Digital release cover art
Studio album by
Released22 May 2020 (2020-05-22)
RecordedAugust 2018 – February 2020
Studio
Genre
Length80:29
Label
Producer
  • George Daniel
  • Matthew Healy
  • Jonathan Gilmore
The 1975 chronology
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
(2018)
Notes on a Conditional Form
(2020)
Alternative cover
Physical release cover art
Physical release cover art
Singles from Notes on a Conditional Form
  1. "People"
    Released: 22 August 2019
  2. "Frail State of Mind"
    Released: 24 October 2019
  3. "Me & You Together Song"
    Released: 16 January 2020
  4. "The Birthday Party"
    Released: 19 February 2020
  5. "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America"
    Released: 3 April 2020
  6. "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)"
    Released: 23 April 2020
  7. "Guys"
    Released: 13 May 2020

Notes on a Conditional Form is the fourth studio album by English rock band The 1975, released on 22 May 2020 through Dirty Hit and Polydor Records. It was recorded from August 2018 to February 2020 and produced by band members George Daniel and Matthew Healy, with some tracks also co-produced by Jonathan Gilmore.

The album is the second and final part of the two albums from their third release cycle, "Music for Cars", following A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018). The album has been described as genre-hopping, mainly focusing on pop, rock, electronic, and dance music subgenres. Songs on the album have been described by writers as pop rock,[1][2] folk music,[1][3] industrial rock,[4] and UK garage,[5] among others. Additional vocalists featured on the album include FKA Twigs, Phoebe Bridgers, and Greta Thunberg, the latter of whom provided a spoken word piece on the album's intro track. At 22 tracks and a runtime of over 80 minutes, the album is the bands longest to date.

The 22-track album was preceded by the seven singles "People", "Frail State of Mind", "Me & You Together Song", "The Birthday Party", "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America", "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)", and "Guys" over a nine-month period; the intro track "The 1975" was additionally released prior to the album's release. The album topped the UK charts within its first week of release, becoming the band's fourth consecutive no.1 album. Despite this, the album divided critics: many praised the album's ambition as well as its genre exploration, while others criticized the album as overly bloated and incoherent. Despite the polarizing reviews, the album still appeared on numerous "best albums of 2020" lists.

Background[edit]

In 2017, The 1975 announced their third studio album would be titled Music for Cars,[6] in reference to their third extended play of the same name. Lead singer Matty Healy stated on Twitter that the band would release the album in 2018, followed by the release of an album under the name Drive Like I Do, the band's previous moniker, in the spring of the next coming years.[7] On 31 May 2018, the band released the single "Give Yourself a Try" from their third studio album, now titled A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. With the release came the announcement that Music for Cars was no longer an album, but rather an "era" containing two albums, scrapping the planned Drive Like I Do album in favour of releasing a fourth studio album in May 2019.[8]

On 21 February 2019, the band announced that the first single from the album would release on 31 May, with the album following "before Reading Festival", which took place on 23 August 2019.[9] On 14 April 2019, Healy also shared a promotional image on Twitter teasing artwork for the album.[10] Three days later, Healy retweeted a video of him performing an unreleased song titled "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America", and adding the caption "Notes".[11] On 23 July 2019, as with all other eras, all social media pages associated with the band became deactivated. The next day, all band accounts were reactivated and the first song on the album, "The 1975", was released, featuring a monologue from climate change activist Greta Thunberg. A countdown then began counting down to the release of the lead single, "People", which was released on 22 August 2019. The 22-track album was subsequently announced for release on 21 February 2020 via an iTunes preorder. "Frail State of Mind" then followed later in the year, being released on 24 October 2019.[12] On 13 January 2020, the album's release was pushed back to 24 April 2020, and the album cover was changed, but changing back to the original artwork two days later.[13] On 30 March 2020, the release date of the album was pushed back again to 22 May 2020, and the album cover was once again changed, but the original artwork was maintained for digital releases.[14]

Composition[edit]

Larry Fitzmaurice of Entertainment Weekly described Notes on a Conditional Form as a genre-hopping blend of pop and rock music, similar to their previous albums, with a recurring theme of electronic pop and dance music.[15] During a Reddit AMA on 5 March 2019, a fan asked if the album would be a heavy emo record, to which Healy responded "Kind of yeah".[16] He later reiterated the comment in an article with NME on 15 April 2019; "I'm an active emo man I suppose I’d call myself, I think that bands when they get to a stage that maybe we’re in they wanna kind of graduate into being like a massive rock band whereas we wanna graduate like into being a small emo band, if you know what I mean".[17] The lead single "People" marked an experimental and harsh change in sound for the band, with the song having been described as anarcho-punk[18] and industrial rock musically.[4]

Further experimentation for the band can be seen in tracks 'Yeah I Know,' 'Shiny Collarbone' and 'Having No Head' which incorporate elements of house, drum and bass and dubstep.[19] In an interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, Healy explained that the album would be inspired by British nighttime culture, adding that it contains references to "the beauty of the M25 and all those lights and going to McDonald's and listening to garage records in a haze in a Peugeot 206."[20] He also told Q that the album has a style similar to English alternative hip hop music group the Streets and British electronic musician Burial.[21] In a separate interview, he added that the record has "one of my best lyrics ever."[22] These influences inspired the much darker and electronic sound of the album. The band further diversify their sound by including elements of country music on the tracks "The Birthday Party", "Roadkill" and "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America", which features guest vocals from Phoebe Bridgers.[23][24]

Promotion[edit]

On Beats 1, Healy confirmed that the first single will be released at midnight on 31 May 2019, and said that the band are trying to decide between three songs to lead off the next album.[25] However, they did not release any new music on 31 May nor the weekend. Later that week, Healy stated "I will start putting music out in August but I really don't know when the whole album will be out".[26] On 24 July 2019, the band released the first song off the album, "The 1975". This introduction, unlike previous years, featured an essay from Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg. On 22 August 2019, the band released the lead single, titled "People". The song was praised for Healy's emotion as well as its intense rock sound. The song's release was accompanied by a music video directed by Warren Fu. On 25 October 2019, the band released the second single off the album, titled "Frail State of Mind". The song premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 Radio Show on Apple Music. A music video for the song was released on 21 November 2019.[27]

The third single from the album, "Me & You Together Song", was premiered as Annie Mac's Hottest Record in the World on BBC Radio 1 on 16 January 2020.[28] The fourth single, "The Birthday Party", was released on 19 February 2020. Frontman Matty Healy previously described "The Birthday Party" as being about the "interesting social minutiae of house parties".[29] The song was accompanied by a music video directed by Ben Ditto including digital avatars of the band members, well-known memes and artwork by Jon Emmony. The fifth single, "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America", was released on 3 April 2020 and featured vocals from American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. The sixth single, "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)", was released on 23 April 2020. It was premiered during the Notes On A Conditional Form Tour. The song features uncredited opening vocals from British singer FKA Twigs. An edited version of the song was also released along with the single, omitting the opening of the song, the prelude to the sax solo, and the end of the sax solo.[30] The seventh single, "Guys" was released on 13 May 2020. It was also premiered during the Notes On A Conditional Form Tour with "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)".[31]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?6.8/10[33]
Metacritic69/100[34]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3/5 stars[1]
Clash8/10[35]
Consequence of SoundB+[36]
Entertainment WeeklyA–[15]
The Guardian3/5 stars[37]
The Independent1/5 stars[38]
NME5/5 stars[18]
Paste5.1/10[39]
Pitchfork8.0/10[40]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[41]

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, Notes on a Conditional Form received an average score of 69 based on 27 reviews, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[34] Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 6.7 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.[33]

In general, Notes on a Conditional Form polarized critics, garnering both high praise and scathing criticism. Reviewing for NME, Dan Stubbs gave the album a perfect score, describing it as a "go-anywhere, do-anything record"; he particularly praised its diversity of musical styles and Healy's confessional lyrics as "totally, refreshingly unfiltered."[18] In another perfect score review, The Sunday Times commended "the sheer force and variety of the writing."[42] Clash's Brenton Blanchet called it "lyrically playful and musically a step away from being confused for a compilation album of the best tracks this group has ever released." He also commended the group's ability to balance multiple genres and wrote that the project was "destined to be the soundtrack to a summer spent indoors."[35] Writing for Pitchfork, Sam Sodomsky said "when everything clicks, their work has never sounded so patient, so personal".[43] Conversely, The Line of Best Fit's Claire Biddles panned the record as "flat, directionless and inessential", deeming its lyrics vacuous and tracklist bloated.[44] Roisin O'Connor of The Independent condemned it as "a smug farrago in which each track grates against the next like rusted gears."[38]

Some critics were more ambivalent in their assessments. Elly Watson of DIY wrote that "among all the killer, there's also a lot of filler," concluding that, despite its "moments of brilliant," the band should have "filtered the cacophony of ideas a little more" if they were to match the quality of their previous album.[45] Writing for Paste, Lizzie Manno considered the album overambitious and inconsistent, dubbing it "an exhausting chaos," and gave it a 5.1 out of 10.[39] Lauren Murphy of The Irish Times deemed it "far too long and somewhat self-indulgent," but admired the band's risk-taking, which she believed had "paid off – this time."[46] The Guardian's Alexis Petridis described it as "a mixed bag," claiming that "you end up applauding their diversity while wishing they'd been a bit more stringent with the blue pencil."[37] Stereogum editor Chris DeVille dubbed it "a perfect 1975 album — an acute summary of their obtuse grandeur, a deeply polarizing collection with a little something for everyone."[47]

Despite the album's polarizing reviews, Notes on a Conditional Form still ended up on several "best albums of 2020" lists including some of the biggest music publications' lists such as Billboard, NME, Stereogum, and Complex. Most cited the group's exploration of genres as a major factor for the album's inclusion of their lists. In their list, Stereogum writer Chris DeVille praised the group for "trying on genres like costumes, attempting to parse an extremely online social landscape, building up and puncturing their own mythology, letting their feelings be their guide".[48]

Accolades[edit]

Accolades for Notes on a Conditional Form
Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
Entertainment Weekly The best albums of 2020... so far N/A
Stereogum Stereogum's 50 Best Albums of 2020 – Mid-Year
5
The 50 Best Albums of 2020
17
Variety Variety's Best Albums of 2020 – Mid-Year N/A
Alternative Press The 50 Best Albums of 2020 in Alternative, Pop Punk, Metal and Beyond N/A
Slant Magazine The 50 Best Albums of 2020
21
Billboard The 50 Best Albums of 2020: Staff Picks
29
PopMatters The 60 Best Albums of 2020
38
NME The 50 Best Albums of 2020
43
Complex The Best Albums of 2020
33
The Guardian The 50 Best Albums of 2020
36
Dork Dork's Albums Of The Year 2020
10
Uproxx The 2020 Uproxx Music Critics Poll
19
The Fader The 50 Best Albums of 2020
46
Far Out Magazine The 50 Best Albums of 2020
40
Coup de Main Magazine The Best Albums of 2020
5
Musikexpress The 50 Best Albums of 2020
17
Soundvenue The 25 Best Foreign Albums of The Year
9
Albumism Albumism Selects: The 100 Best Albums of 2020
20
MeHaceRudio Los mejores discos en inglés 2020 según MHR
49

Commercial performance[edit]

On the US Billboard 200, Notes on a Conditional Form debuted at number 4 with 54,000 album-equivalent units (including 39,000 pure album sales), becoming the band's third top 5 album.[69]

Notes on a Conditional Form debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, moving 36,763 units. It is The 1975's fourth album to top the charts in the United Kingdom.[70]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by George Daniel and Matthew Healy, except where noted.[a]

Notes on a Conditional Form track listing
No.TitleLength
1."The 1975" (Daniel, M. Healy, Greta Thunberg)4:55
2."People"2:38
3."The End (Music for Cars)"2:30
4."Frail State of Mind"3:53
5."Streaming"1:32
6."The Birthday Party"4:45
7."Yeah I Know"4:13
8."Then Because She Goes"2:07
9."Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America"4:23
10."Roadkill"2:55
11."Me & You Together Song"3:27
12."I Think There's Something You Should Know"4:00
13."Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied"3:38
14."Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)" (Daniel, M. Healy, Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez)4:07
15."Shiny Collarbone"2:50
16."If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)"5:19
17."Playing on My Mind"3:24
18."Having No Head"6:04
19."What Should I Say"4:06
20."Bagsy Not in Net"2:26
21."Don't Worry" (Tim Healy)2:48
22."Guys"4:29
Total length:80:29

Personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes and Pitchfork.

The 1975

  • Matthew Healy – vocals (2, 4, 6–14, 16–17, 19–22), guitar (2, 8–11, 14, 16), banjo (6), keyboards (1), piano (6)
  • George Daniel – drums (2, 6, 8, 10–14, 16, 19, 22), backing vocals (22), synthesizers (2, 4–5, 7, 9, 13, 15–16, 18–19, 22), keyboards (1, 7, 9–10, 13–16, 18–19), piano (4, 6, 12, 18), programming (1, 7, 15, 18–20), strings (1), harp (4, 12), vibraphone (6, 12)
  • Adam Hann – guitar (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, 16, 22)
  • Ross MacDonald – bass guitar (2, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13–14, 16, 22), double bass (9)

Additional vocalists

Additional musicians

  • Jamie Squire – guitar (13, 16), piano (13, 21), keyboards (13)
  • John Waugh – tenor saxophone (6, 9, 12, 16, 18)
  • Ben Lester – pedal steel (5, 9, 17)
  • Rashawn Ross – trumpet (6, 9, 12, 16), flugelhorn (6, 12, 16)
  • Roy Hargrove - synthesizer (4)
  • Lemar Guillary – trombone (6, 16)
  • Bob Reynolds – tenor saxophone (6, 12, 16), alto saxophone (6, 12, 16)
  • Helen Keen – flute (3, 5)
  • Lindsey Ellis – flute (3, 5), piccolo (3, 5)
  • Gareth Hulse – oboe (3, 5)
  • Ruth Berresford – oboe (3, 5)
  • Nick Rodwell – clarinet (3, 5)
  • Lois Au – bassoon (3, 5)
  • Martin Owen – French horn (3, 5)
  • Tim Jones – French horn (3, 5)
  • Pip Eastop – French horn (3, 5)
  • Dan Newell – trumpet (3, 5)
  • Christian Barraclough – trumpet (3, 5)
  • Andy Wood – tenor trombone (3, 5)
  • Ed Tarrant – tenor trombone (3, 5)
  • Barry Clements – bass trombone (3, 5)
  • Owen Slade – tuba (3, 5)
  • Frank Ricotti – percussion (3, 5)
  • Suzy Willison-Kawalec – harp (3, 5, 12)
  • Everton Nelson – violin (leader) (3, 5, 12)
  • Emlyn Singleton – violin (leader of seconds) (3, 5, 12)
  • Oli Langford – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Marianne Haynes – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Kate Robinson – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Ben Hancox – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Ciaran McCabe – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Ian Humphries – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Debbie Widdup – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Warren Zielinski – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Tom Pigot-Smith – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Perry Montague-Mason – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Natalia Bonner – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Martyn Jackson – violin (3, 5, 12)
  • Bruce White – viola (3, 5, 12)
  • Gillianne Haddow – viola (3, 5, 12)
  • Andy Parker – viola (3, 5, 12)
  • Peter Lale – viola (3, 5, 12)
  • Lydia Lowndes-Northcott – viola (3, 5, 12)
  • Ian Burdge – cello (3, 5, 12)
  • Vicky Matthews – cello (3, 5, 12)
  • Chris Worsey – cello (3, 5, 12)
  • Jonny Byers – cello (3, 5, 12)
  • Chris Laurence – double bass (3, 5)
  • Stacey Watton – double bass (3, 5)
  • The London Community Gospel Choir – performance (13)

Producers and engineers

  • George Daniel – production, mixing (15, 20)
  • Matthew Healy – production
  • Jonathan Gilmore – production (2, 8, 10–11, 16, 22), engineering
  • Luke Gibbs – assistant engineering
  • Mike Crossey – mixing
  • Stephen Sesso – mix assistance
  • Robin Schmidt – mastering

Arrangements

  • George Daniel – orchestral arrangements, horn arrangements
  • Matthew Healy – orchestral arrangements, horn arrangements
  • Sam Swallow – orchestral arrangements
  • John Waugh – horn arrangements

Artwork

  • Samuel Burgess-Johnson – art direction
  • Ed Blow – art direction
  • Matthew Healy – art direction
  • Jordan Curtis Hughes – photography

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[88] Silver 60,000double-dagger

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Writing credits are according to the album's liner notes.[71] Pitchfork lists slightly different writing credits, with each track credited as written by Daniel, M. Healy, Ross MacDonald and Adam Hann, except:
    • "The 1975", written by Daniel, M. Healy and Thunberg;
    • "Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)", written by Daniel, M. Healy, MacDonald, Hann, Gomez and Hiroshi Sato;
    • "Shiny Collarbone", written by Daniel, M. Healy, MacDonald, Hann and Cutty Ranks;
    • "Bagsy Not in Net", written by Daniel, M. Healy and Christopher Cross;
    • "Don't Worry", written by Daniel, M. Healy, MacDonald, Hann and T. Healy.[72]

References[edit]

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