Fears, “affinity”
By Vrinda Jagota · March 26, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Tulle is a uniquely satisfying fabric to wear. A single layer of the loose weave is nearly transparent, so it is often stacked upon itself, creating gauzy, decadent layers that puff up and move in conjunction with the air around them. It is the primary material Irish singer and producer Constance Keane uses to make the clothes she designs and features in many of her music videos, and is the name of her record label as well.

The way tulle functions as a fabric also mirrors the approach she takes to building ethereal electronic-pop soundscapes that permeate across and adapt to the spaces they’re played in. The songs on Oíche, her 2021 debut as Fears, were propelled by jubilant synth blips, scampering drums, and folk-pop hooks. But on her follow-up affinity, that sonic scaffolding scales back and her vocals distort, leaving the compositions more amorphous and expansive. These songs are compelling because they offer you a haze of yearning, regret, and loneliness while leaving room for you to bring your own associations to the music, too. 

affinity covers the many facets of romantic strife. But Keane’s approach to song construction on this record is so textual that the specific storylines are less important than the atmosphere the music provides. The sunny, delicate melodies of her earlier work are slowed down and pulled into weirder, grainier, more elongated forms that drift through the air like fog. Her voice also sounds less pristine but no less compelling. As Keane stretches out the phrases she sings, you’re engrossed in the glimmering rasps of her airy falsetto as much as the words she’s saying.

That’s not to say that the sentiments on affinity are interchangeable. On opener “4th of the 1st,” Keane weaves an engrossing cocoon of yearning and confusion with just a few phrases. She repeats, “You say you want me, change your mind,” her vaporous falsetto echoing against itself and diffusing through the metallic synth melody and gently beating drums. On “cliff,” Keane reassures someone that they’re still worthy of love even though she’s leaving them: “I want you to know you’re worth it too/ I can’t give you what you want,” she whispers. The song’s bright harp notes cut through a wash of synth, decorating the song with a sense of hope.  

One song especially stands apart on the album. On “11249” Keane reflects on attempting suicide. It’s a sobering moment that functions as the emotional centerpiece of the album. Much of the album drifts, but here, Keane sings with precision and poise as she explains that the memory of the day “Sneaks up on you/ Like a new surprise” because of how foreign it is to her now, “When I’m feeling most alive.” Hearing her overwhelming sense of gratitude to be alive, to be able to call her mom and cry on a pier, imbues each song with profound poignancy. Like tulle fluttering in the wind takes on the shape and frequency of the world around it, Keane immerses herself in every slice of heartbreak she experiences, every fleeting observation, every memory from a place of gratitude and generously presents it back to us, allowing us to do the same.

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