Can’t Love, the debut from Turn To Crime (ex-Awesome Color member Derek Stanton), primes the listener with a simple, spacey synth whose pitch eventually spirals downward like a machine being turned off. It is a nod to analog production and is a great entry point to this album, which largely relies on a clear and wonderfully dated aesthetic. After the synth grinds to a halt, we are brought into the titular track with fuzzy twangy guitars with drums that sound like they were recorded both forty years ago and just yesterday.
The majority of Can’t Love rests in the space between the past and present, but more authentically than Awesome Color’s catalog. Perhaps this is due to a bit of path-paving by artists like Mac DeMarco, who injected wobbly, slightly distorted guitars back into the mainline. It might also owe to Stanton’s relocation to Detroit from Brooklyn. Can’t Love sees Stanton outgrowing his Awesome Color-era tendency to wear his influences on his sleeve to actually owning his sound. Many of these tracks are truly inspired, rather than borrowed.
That said, goddamn does Stanton sound like a hybrid of Lou Reed and David Bowie. I’m not complaining, but it’s jarring when “Pine Box” rolls around and the album takes a very sudden detour. The aesthetic suddenly jumps from The Velvet Underground to TV on the Radio and though it sounds like nothing else on the album, this track is one of my favorites. What can I say? I’m a sucker for slow jams.
And then just as abruptly, we’re back on course with “Forgiveness,” the strongest showing of the sound established earlier on the album. Where “Can’t Love” and “Sunday’s Cool” might have settled into a repetitive structure, “Forgiveness” gives the listener a complex and fully formed experience. If this is what Turn To Crime is capable of, my only regret is that it doesn’t make as bold an appearance on the rest of the album.
Unfortunately, closing out a sparsely (yet purposefully) produced and overall pretty chill album with a seven and a half minute instrumental followed by a ten and a half minute instrumental just didn’t land for me. After “Forgiveness,” it’s hard to not feel crestfallen during “Nightmares.” “I Can’t Not Love” does pick the pace back up – it’s reminiscent of Deerhunter’s “Nothing Ever Happened” – but it never allows the listener the same catharsis. Instead, the track (and the album) close with what reminded me of an engine roaring. While this is fitting for a ‘Detroit’ album, I’m not talking about the roar from a Ford Thunderbird. The noise sounds more like a lawnmower, which could serve as a metaphor for Stanton’s growth between Awesome Color and Turn To Crime – he’s definitely got the right idea, but scale is off.