After honing a specific musical identity on her first two records as Sneaks, Eva Moolchan moves away from her bass-driven minimalism and branches out into the sounds of trap, dub and techno. It’s a fairly large departure, furthered by the album’s length, which is a solid fifty percent longer than anything she has released to date. This jump was a huge risk, as much of Sneaks’ initial allure lied in Moolchan’s brevity and commitment to well-worn post-punk sounds. What could have resulted in either her grandest statement of intent yet or a messy disaster ends up being nothing so potent. Highway Hypnosis is a fairly middling album, one that takes the shells of great ideas and turns most of them into despondent non-songs.

Despite all the musical changes, however, the core ethos of Moolchan’s music remains: starkly individual songwriting with a pleasing sloppiness and a dry, absurd sense of humor. “Suck It Like a Whistle,” constantly threatens the sexual pun of its title, but the vague lyrics never fully give, as if daring the listener to laugh without ever giving them a reason to do so. Further, Moolchan’s monotone quasi-rapping is able to offer moments of glee, as on “The Way It Goes”: “Take me to a skate park/ Let me show off my moves/ I can ollie/ I can do a one-eighty/ Take me to the streets and I’ll show you I’m pretty,” she delivers in a chirpy boast, donning an accent on “pretty” to force the rhyme with “one-eighty.”

Moolchan’s biggest issue here is that her nonchalance runs thing, both in her performances and writing. Despite the bounce and grit of the surrounding music, her vocal delivery never rises above a slurred hush. Rare moments, like the trop-house verses on “Money Don’t Grow on Trees,” offer a half-hearted swagger, only to delve into some of the album’s driest rapping on “Cinnamon.” It’s easy to embrace some of this disaffection early on, but the album’s lack of varied vocal inflection becomes aggravating on repeated listens. By the time you reach the breathy melodies on “And We’re Off,” you’re wishing Moolchan would shout, yelp, groan or do anything besides casually toss-off her lyrics

On top of the album’s emotional blandness, the structural workings of Highway Hypnosis provide another problematic element. While brevity is still Moolchan’s go-to, there’s a little more length to each of these tracks, and not always to their benefit. Cuts like “Saiditzoneza” and “Beliefs” sit in a nebulous middle ground between a sketch and a full song, albeit missing the strengths of both. A defining characteristic of previous Sneaks album was the giggle elicited every time a track hit a premature, unexpected end, giving her songs a cheery goofiness. Now, many tracks feel pointlessly extended. “Saiditzoneza” doesn’t have any extra parts or developments, but it meanders along for a greater length than it deserves.

At the end of “Ecstasy,” one of the more successfully hypnotic tracks on the album, a chopped-up voice repeats the mantra “long live Sneaks,” with a dramatic pause placed in between each word. If longevity were solely the product of versatility and adaptability, Moolchan has already proved herself. The nagging issue of consistent quality, however, leaves something to be desired. The new sound world on Highway Hypnosis is an exciting and trendy one, and despite the few loose ends and flat compositions, the music here should provide nothing but excitement to fans in anticipation of Moolchan’s next step.

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