“Closer than before / on the edge of being / the same fuck up as before / dying in a secret”, Mat Cothran (aka Coma Cinema) mumbles out on the opening track of his fourth full-length album, Posthumous Release. The South Carolina native spills out seemingly half-conscious lyrics throughout the twelve short tracks, as if he is reading scribbled notes directly out of a diary. The music does not stray far from Cothran’s melancholic roots, though this time recorded with a higher production value. The question is — how does the higher quality change the feel of Coma Cinema’s output, formerly lo-fi, that fans are accustomed to?
The answer is…not too much. Cothran’s voice still presses through the music as if the microphone was taped to his mouth. The songs are personal and emotional. The sound is much sharper (only relative to Coma Cinema’s previous recordings. Not to, say, a Coldplay album), and you won’t find the hisses and scratchiness you would find on previous albums. In a few instances, the crisp production brings Coma Cinema’s sound closer to the pop genre, which may or may not anger some fans. My guess is not because everything else remains authentic.
We are treated to a quick Weezer-esque three chord ditty in “She Keeps it Alive”. Personally, I think backup falsetto could have given the song some needed texture. The ghostly vibrations added to Cothran’s vocals in “Burn a Church” are downright questionable. Then there is the poppy “Satan Made a Mansion,” a quick and catchy romp through a graveyard and filled with romantic visions of death, in which Cothran touts “satan made a mansion / for our love to live when it dies.” It is a great track and since it clocks in at a brisk 2:06, I would say it is just long enough to warrant its inclusion on your car’s iPod playlist.
The gem of the album comes in the form of “Bailey Jay,” a story of love, loss, and naivete. Whether the song is actually about the popular transsexual porn star of the same name, only Cothran knows. Gentle synthesizers soothe the anxiety created by rambling guitar strums and the honest yet tormented lyrics, warmly quelling the sadness invoked by the repeated chorus, “we don’t know how to love.”
Like a series of entries in a grunge musician’s diary, Posthumous Release plays out as a somber journey into the dark recesses of a troubled mind. It includes themes of suicide, sex, loneliness, loss and yearning. At the heart of it, however, is a confused love for it all. Cothran is at home singing about these otherwise uncomfortable topics. This helps make the album a rather relaxing listen. It will be interesting to see where Coma Cinema goes from here. Hopefully not too far out of his comfort zone.