The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Amber Coffman – ‘City Of No Reply’ (Columbia / Sony)

  • 5/10
    - 5/10


Amber Coffman’s first solo album after leaving Dirty Projectors, ‘City Of No Reply’, is sadly far too polite and inoffensive to be memorable enough.

After David Longstreth dropped his own version of 808s & Heartbreak earlier this year in the form of the self-titled Dirty Projectors album, all eyes turned to Amber Coffman’s inevitable response. After all, Longstreth’s release not only was based off of the couple’s dissolved relationship, but contained not-so-subtle remarks about Coffman’s supposed vanity. But indie (whatever that stands for anymore) is arguably the least confrontational genre in existence. And so, to no one’s surprise, Coffman’s new album City Of No Reply, while echoing certain sentiments about an unspecified and vague relationship, does not indulge in drama. Rather, it tries to assert the artist as a completely separate entity from her former band or any of the commotion surrounding it, saving us, for better or worse, from the first official hip-hop-like “beef” in indie.

For all of Coffman’s good intentions however, the shadow of one of indie’s flagship bands is hard to escape. Especially when she had the offender in question Longstreth come in and help produce the album for the larger part of its making. As a result, songs like opener ‘All To Myself’ that are supposed to showcase her newfound independence reek of Dirty Projectors due to the prominent manually-pitched vocal harmonising. The case is the same for ‘Dark Night’, which includes quirky electronic sounds and weird eclectic beats that seem to do nothing but echo ‘Remade Horizon’ from Bitte Orca.

There are better moments on the album, and they are for the most part the ones in which Coffman’s latent soul influence shines through. ‘If You Want My Heart’ is a slow, R&B heavy track that’s groovy as hell. Picture a white girl covering a TLC song, but somehow making it not cringe-worthy. Sadly, for the most part, the album is lacking lyrically. All of it is very much Taylor Swift, with the main idea being “I’m independent and I don’t need you anymore” type of dribble. ‘Under The Sun’ is the ‘Shake It Off’ anthem, but for shy girls, with lyrics like “I’m out all day on my own / And I thought I lost my way / But I didn’t mind / Cause I know that I was already home”. Profound.

In its entirety, City Of No Reply is entirely inoffensive. It’s like watching a little polite girl trying to find her little niche place in this big bad music industry, trying desperately not to intrude anyone’s space. It may be unfair to judge an artist by their shared body of work with their ex, or the context in which the album emerged, but in this case, the context is inescapable. And while you could never call City Of No Reply bad or unlistenable, you find yourself begging for something to force you to turn your head. Some proclamation of anything concrete or better yet, divisive. (5/10) (Ellie Wolf)

Listen to City Of No Reply here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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