COIN’s ‘Uncanny Valley’ is surprisingly human
Kate Casper | Friday, April 8, 2022
Artificial Intelligence meets romance in indie-pop band COIN’s fourth studio album, “Uncanny Valley.” The album has the whim, depth and danceability expected of any COIN project, blending heavy overtones with the distinct groove and flavor the trio is known for. Listeners are taken on a journey of learning, loving, plugging in and disconnecting. While thematically the album follows the relationship between humanity and technology (including robotic voices and glitch noises) the songs transcend this context, exploring isolation, naivety and longing.
The album opens with “Learning,” a song about “coming unplugged” and “learning to love.” The song feels expectant, like a glimmer of hope on the horizon, exemplified in the use of violin and angelic, layered vocals. At the end of the song, a robotic voice welcomes listeners to the project with a distorted “Good morning, user!”
The second track, released as a single in late 2021, is the punchy pop song “Chapstick.” The song is alluring with a tangy guitar intro and a slow, seductive tone in the verses. Frontman Chase Lawrence tells Genius the song is about “AI experiencing something as acutely human as a first kiss.”
The third and fourth songs are some of the best on the album. Another punchy song, “Cutie,” is a reference to the brand of clementines. The song encapsulates the giddy feeling of having a crush. The song is both sweet and tart like a tangerine, a term of endearment the narrator uses.
“Take a Picture” follows “Cutie” as the pinnacle windows-down summertime song. It’s a song laced with contradiction. It’s about both apathy and appreciation. It both questions reality and embraces it. This is my personal favorite on the album.
“Brad Pitt” follows as catchy, bouncy and existential. The song pursues topics like eternal life and sanity with lyrics like “Keep me young forever” and, perhaps the most relatable lyric to a college student, “Every night I’m losing my mind.” But the song is only a forerunner to the real standout song, “Killing Me,” which follows someone realizing their partner is “falling out of love.” While the context is gut-wrenching, the beat is funky — the sonic equivalent of dying with a smile, knowing the truth and dancing through the pain.
Next are a pair of more slow, rhythmic songs. “Blackbox” is a dreamy and explorative search for intimacy. “It Works” is about a broken relationship. These songs present the duality of the album, contrasting the giddier, punchier songs with dreamier, more self-aware tracks.
“Take the Stairs” is short and anthemic with brass instrumentation, gritty production and surrealist lyrics. This surrealism is best illustrated in the second verse: “I get lost in my emotion, put my feet inside the ocean / And I flip over my mattress and run straight into the traffic.” This is a must-listen.
Next, “Watering a Dead Flower” is gritty and angsty, the only song on the album that feels purely rock-inspired. This contrast with the second to last track, “Plug Me In.” This is “a message to my younger self.” It is a slow piano ballad, describing the secular world in the first verse from a “flying car” to an “electronic tablet,” contrasting this with distinct biblical imagery of heaven and hell in the chorus. “Plug Me In” is essentially an admission of submission to the ways of the secular world.
Uncanny Valley is, without a doubt, the best album of 2022 (and it’s only April). This is the album to get you through a breakup, a crushing failure and every feeling in between. This is the album to blast in a car with friends and to fall asleep to, dreaming about all the things you can and can’t have. The album invites us to question who we are and what matters.
Who knew an album inspired by Artificial Intelligence could be the vehicle to best present true humanity?
Album: “Uncanny Valley”
Label: 10k Projects
Favorite tracks: “Take a Picture,” “Cutie,” “Killing Me,” and “Take the Stairs”
If you like: Hippo Campus, Sure Sure, The Band CAMINO
Shamrocks: 5 out of 5