Do you spend a lot of time on the Internet?
Do you habitually indulge in superficial, gin-and-juice introspection?
Do you have smug subtweets about your social circle hidden in your drafts because you’re afraid your boldness might be met with a lack of consensus?
Congratulations! This is the album for you!
Let them shake their head and cry blasphemy. If it’s any consolation, this is the album for me, too, and I don’t wish to downplay my intimacy. In fact, for many nights, I quietly sang along to Therapy, on the stoop of my old Greenpoint apartment–the one I hesitantly referred to as a “leg up” from the shared room I inhabited in a Russian sculptor’s basement in Bed-Stuy–as if I’d written the words myself. I would wait patiently for the lights from the windows across the street to dim, for the noise of the TV sets to dissipate, and climb down the stairs with my earphones plugged in, a plastic-stemmed Party City wine glass in hand. It became somewhat of a scheduled self-betterment appointment: my pining nineteen year old bitterness, the screw-cap bodega wine that aimed to impersonate a powerful Burgundy tannic red, and Teddy Blank’s snarky Therapy. Together, we’d tread psychoanalytical ground with sublime awkwardness and the comedy of expectation.
Therapy has the unguarded, self-aware inelegant boldness of a drunk text message and the ludicrous satisfaction of stumbling over words in literature that validate your own feelings–take, for example, the gratification that comes with reading the Freudian instance of a penniless beggar borrowing money to buy salmon mayonnaise (makes you feel a lot better about spending $10 on the Kim Kardashian game when you’re already short on rent, doesn’t it?) In the same way, hearing Teddy address living in the shadows of his friends’ successes with deadpan insouciance on “Famous Friends” (Like a spoiled little boy I get so upset/ All these pop songs I put up on the internet/ They never turn out right/ They never make much news/ You’re in LA/ In a hotel/ Giving interviews) validates feelings of dooming incompetence that come with spending more time reading about friends than actually spending with them. It’s all too perfectly redeeming when he addresses the fate of a relationship with bonus naughty tattoo material on “Winter Gloves” with a “We’re all adults here/ Let’s act accordingly.”
No doubt Therapy is self-glorifying with its Joe Jackson-like social criticism (The girl is dropping names/ Is she shallow or does she just know what she wants/ Are those things the same?) but his brand of lonerism cuts closer to the bone than standard Alessia Cara anti-social pessimism. Since I’m presuming you’re listening to “Lonely Sinner” with chronological snobbery w/r/t her Billboard topper “Here”, I feel obligated to point out that, yes, Teddy may come across older and maybe even whinier in comparison, but that’s what makes Therapy vindicating. It’s the kind of loneliness that self-deprecates as much as it critiques, laughing at itself because reacting to it any other way would be too sad.
“Daddy Dies” is a tongue-in-cheek, whimsical, and strangely upbeat account of a contemporary, desensitized reaction to mortality i.e. “It’s time to put on a straight face/ When your daddy dies.” He provides further reactionary guidelines for those who find themselves in a similar predicament: “throw out the plan and improvise” when you run “out of time and disk space” and “snap his photo on your camera phone.” I’m supposing this, too, is a poignant dig at someone, but the song’s existential outfit is relatable without solving any such puzzles.
Think of album closer “This, That & The Other” as a buddy film, slowed down to 24 frames per second in its chorus, which begs, rather humorously, “When do you walk/ When do you need/ When do you dream of me?” It’s one of those tracks that you tend to skip during earlier listenings, but come back to eventually, only to find it more enjoyable than your initial favorite. “This, That & The Other” is a rather soft, touching drunken daydream that aspires to mend a friendship gone awry with its delicate, affectionate wonderings, “I picture you at 40/ Bragging about our glory days/ You ain’t heavy/ You’re my brother/ And someday at my wedding/ There’d be no excuse not to reconcile/ You’d be my best man.”
I resisted the urge to investigate his Famous Friends but I did discover that Teddy likes Cape Cod Potato Chips and once had a dog named Maude (I’d say anything within the reach of the first page of Google results is fair game) and wrote a concept album on Atul Gawande’s Complications. If Therapy doesn’t do it for you, I guess you can go back to watching this video of Sufjan Stevens covering “Hotline Bling”, but it’s really hard not to find musical interpretations of surgical drama compelling. And I’m not saying this because I have an autographed copy sitting on my bookshelf.
You can stream both Therapy and Complications here.