Tycho’s Weather doesn’t reach the atmospheric heights of his post-chillwave classics.
Tycho’s Weather doesn’t reach the atmospheric heights of his post-chillwave classics Dive and Awake, but because he’s borrowing from pop instead of rock this time around, it’s less aggressive and more interesting than 2017’s cheap-seats gift Epoch. This stuff would work at festivals and at luxe penthouses late at night, but despite a track being called “Into the Woods,” not in nature.
Though billed just to the San Francisco producer born Scott Hansen, Weather is basically a collaboration with Arizona singer Hannah Cottrell, a.k.a. Saint Sinner, who appears on five of the album’s eight tracks. She’s no great shakes as a vocalist, with the same breathy lilt and vocal curlicues as every singer trying to hit it big in the late 2010s, but pop looks good on Tycho. He’s always used big, dumb, predictable chord progressions, which moves his music up one level of accessibility from that of his heroes Boards of Canada. It’s surprising a singer hasn’t showed up in his music yet.
Hansen had a chance to take advantage of the mono-artist billing his seniority guaranteed him and imagine what a singer would sound like inside the world he’s honed on his four previous records. But he builds platforms for Cottrell, not environments. He glides along on simple major-to-minor progressions, employing time-tested tricks like cutting the drums for a throwaway bar between the first chorus and the second verse. He also indulges in a sadly common pop trope: lazily ending tracks at the end of the loop, a short tail of reverb substituting for a final chord. The fadeout on “Pink & Blue” feels almost subversive.
Two tracks hint at what could’ve been. “Skate” riskily cuts the drums and lets Cottrell’s voice drift in ambient space. “Easy” reduces her vocals to breathy sighs and hints, adding more emotional intrigue than when we’re just hearing a straightforward story. Though some of the subject matter is interesting, like the bisexual love triangle on “Pink & Blue,” the lyrics Cottrell sings pull us into a more mundane dimension than the music would on its own.
Hansen has never been one to engage in tricky instrumental flights of fancy, but it’s worth wondering if the lack of risks we find on Weather has anything to do with the desire to fit on more curated playlists. Hansen essentially makes low-key EDM, which seems to be the preferred mode of popular music in the algorithm age be it the post-chillwave ambient aggression of Odesza or the chipmunk drops of the Chainsmokers. In other words, this shit is playlist catnip, especially fronted by an unknown singer trading in a very 2010s ideal of cool.
Tycho works better when he’s making background music than music meant to move hordes of kids on molly, which is what puts Weather a notch or two above Epoch. But his music was best when it wasn’t so functional – when it moved in its own space instead of others, when it created its own universe rather than resigning itself to exist in ours.