Formed in the same Atlanta scene that birthed acts such as Microwave, Blis. is an extension of similar cultural and spiritual conflicts that have grown to define the southern indie/emo scene. Originally a solo act of frontman Aaron Gossett, Blis. has grown in scope and sonic fidelity in a short period of time, with personal events such as the birth of Gossett’s son and a deep familial conflict informing the construction of debut album No One Loves You. This is an album produced from the rigors of life.
No One Loves You starts with the short, simple “Dumb,” a scorching, towering introduction to pain, sorrow and the slightest hint of hope. Gossett’s fluctuating whisper-silent vocals punctuate a certain aesthetic and style that will come to define the entirety of the work. What’s immediately noticeable about the opener is that it’s meant to carry forward, to lock the listener into position, finishing every chapter without interruption.
They maintain that cohesion with “Stale Smoke,” in which every chord paints a world that slowly incorporates each instrument into a menagerie of complexity and opposed sonic structures. Its chorus also absolutely rips, with lyrics that drown the listener within an undertow of situations that have been lived in and lived through. What’s fascinating about the emotional barometer of this album is that while it explores extremely sensitive subjects, it also is accepting and progressive of what has already come to pass.
Somehow, all facets of life seem par the course for Blis., including anger. “Take Me Home” has some of the most anguished vocals set alongside huge, languishing guitars that add a spatial sense that proves for an uncomfortable immediacy. Its translation of emotions reaches a near-perfect accuracy. Gossett’s vocals once more anoint this track with a whisper-quiet pitch and soul-wrenching scream. It’s much more than just a duality—he sounds possessed. The whole album is to some extent. “Servant,” a brief, dreamy interlude is forged in reverb and is a brief respite before “Old Man” starts. Though this track once again demonstrates the band’s propensity for brevity, that doesn’t mean that it’s without detail, the contours and shapes of the sound rich and incendiary, as are the lyrics. Gossett sings on “Lost Boy,” “would you like it all for your God?“, his voice conveying a frankness in questioning one’s own theological morality. The music, meanwhile, is further exploration of Blis.’s sonic boundaries, at once avoiding emo and math rock tropes, but flirting with them enough to reinvigorate their symbiotic potency.
That potency is exemplified on “Ugly,” in which a dreamy groove defines the song’s first structure, relying on a watery bass that is shrouded in mounting depth from accompanying instrumentation. As dreamy as it sounds, its nightmarish tendencies soon spring to life as Gossett’s vocals and percussion explode. Amid the chaos of its twinkling guitars and growling crescendos, Gossett’s own son’s laughter is sampled here, to haunting and powerful effect. It is a hallmark track.
As consistently aesthetically and thematically as the album is, it’s also just as experimental in portions, with “Home”‘s breakneck pace changing halfway throughout to explore what could have been two different songs. “Christian Girls” showcases a tranquil, meditative calm track that relies on its lyrics to communicate its dire theme and intent. Its composition inevitably betrays that calmness, sliding into anguish in its last pleading grasp with the listener. These effects are only amplified by Gossett’s vocal style. At times pure uncontrolled chaos, deviating from whispers into screams, it’s simple and direct, complex and obtuse, the dynamics of his vocals elevating the album throughout, especially on its haunting closing track, “Broken.”
No One Loves You is one of the strongest debut albums of the year, with an incredible narrative here that propels and defines a dreamy soundscape of oppressive crunch and beautiful serenity. This is the kind of album that speaks to its audience without a shield, open and raw. It’s a portrait of a life that has been led in a particular way, similar and dissimilar to your own. Take a single line from this album, at any track and see if it expresses in its simplicity the way you feel. No One Loves You is an autobiography of Gossett and company, an album that details racial inequality, loss, fear, anger and anti-religious sentiment, an exposed ugly world that we all inhabit. Chief among it is the slightest confounding hope and a sad realization there is no prayer here, no magic that it will simply get better. You just live through it.