London duo TENDER’s debut album, ‘Modern Addiction,’ listens like catharsis. From orgasm, to break-up, to silence, the record breaths closure to a relationship that has intensified, shattered, and healed. It is young, cold, urban, lonely, and an intrinsically modern look at the irrepressible desire to maintain a love, be it destined or doomed. James Cullen and Dan Cobb’s debut full length explores the phenomenon of comfort and compulsion that is addiction, via a pop record about a relationship. Cullen frames familiar feelings for us to relate to and digest, but simultaneously undermines their presence, leaving the listener holding the same hollow heart that he carried through his addiction. Cobb’s soaring synths and progressive percussion are waxed and shined by the album’s sleek club mix, and the juxtaposition with Cullen’s lyrics is heartbreaking.

Cullen and Cobb formed TENDER in 2015, as the bedroom project of two flatmates tired of the design-by-committee nature of larger musical groups. Due to their intimate personal geography, Cobb was privy to the ’toxic’ relationship that gestated Cullen’s lyrics, and this record. Gladly enough, in regards to music-making with Cobb, “Nothing seemed like a struggle. We never fought anything,” Cullen remembers. They self-released a few songs and “Armour” wound up on the front page of Reddit a few hours later (with several hundred thousand plays on Soundcloud). Two years and three EPs later, TENDER now have tens of millions of streams across Soundcloud, Spotify and YouTube and have enjoyed Hype Machine’s #1 spot several times with several different tracks.

‘Modern Addiction’ is about duality, the unreliable polarity of human magnetics. The opening track, ‘Illuminate,’ describes a struggle for independence in the face of scale-tipping dominance. ’Vow’ finds beauty in the unique balance of a moment. ‘Nadir,’ the album’s most precise emotional indictment, lurches from underneath, “I hate it when you touch me, but I’ve kept it under wraps / Get bored of trying foreplay and I think we’re getting fat.” Swimming in between polished sub tones and global rhythms are relatable fallacies of love. These tracks have refreshingly inclusive sensual detail, and are liquid enough in their diction to be tangible to those who navigate the many flavors of romance in the year 2017. These are ultimately pop songs, meant to illuminate the ubiquitous but hidden. “We want it to make people connect with each other. We want to evoke emotion. We want people to dance,” says Cobb.

While ‘Modern Addiction’ often deals with the bleak realities of a love that’s fading, repeated listens offer a sense of optimism. It’s the relief that comes from getting through to the other side. The second half of the ‘Nadir’ is about “loving someone in a different way,” Cullen says. “Because it isn’t how it was in the beginning, doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

TENDER’s ‘Modern Addiction’ provides fresh perspective to the idea of addiction, through the lens of love. It is unafraid to admit or to accuse, eager to confide and to provide, in direct, shimmering confessionals. The irony is that Cullen seems to have not been afforded these luxuries in his personal relationship, and observing his self-portrait leaves the listener feeling similarly ephemeral and isolated. All save for that of his musical relationship with Cobb, who’s dynamic and punctual dark-pop flavor echoes his bandmate’s struggle with audible landscapes appropriately smooth in their tones and jagged in their turns. ‘Modern Addiction’ is a window to overdose, intervention, relapse, and sobriety. For the listener, it’s the experience of being on both sides of the glass.

Noisey s a certain power to music, a magic that allows the listener to be transported into a new place where their fears and needs are understood. It’s that spellbinding quality that’s at the root of Hazey Eyes and his new EP, ‘Some Reason’, a record that’s as much a comfort blanket as it is a cushion to sit back and reflect on past and future experiences.

Growing up between Philadelphia and New Jersey, the twenty-one year old artist is classically trained in a slew of instruments: from violin to piano to upright bass. “When I was a kid I hated practicing,” Thomas explains, but he was pushed onward by a musical family (his dad plays saxophone, clarinet and piano) eventually ending up being rated in the Top 5 players in his state.

Music began early for Hazey Eyes. As well as his work in the classical world, in high school he formed a heavy metal band. Though it’s a far cry from the subtle, relaxing sound he makes now, the name Hazey Eyes is a subtle nod to his heavier background – it’s taken from a lyric in the first chorus on Taking Back Sunday’s debut album.

Once high school was over Thomas moved to university, where he studied to become an electrical engineer. At this point the EDM bubble in the United States had yet to burst and he became entrenched in the burgeoning scene. “I started producing with my metal band but I didn’t try any other instrumentation beside guitar bass and drums. When I went to college I heard electronic music and it changed my palette.”

Though there are subtle nods to his electronic background in the music, Hazey Eyes sits in a place of his own – one of comforting reflection, somewhere between the hours when night time begins and the day ends, all compliment with strings hinting at his orchestral background. “Writing music is a way for me to blow off steam,” he says. “I come home from work and play the piano and see what comes out. I don’t open Ableton with a goal in mind. I think it’s really important to let my ears guide me.”

The result is an EP centered firmly in the realm of heartbreak. “It’s focused on relationships, the darker side of them,” Thomas says, hinting at each of the tracks on the record. “ If you know me personally I’m an upbeat person but this is the outlet for when I’m by myself, personal reflecting on things. It’s a little bit of reflection in the darkness.”

Completed with a selection of vocalists Thomas scouted out via Soundcloud – “I take pride in the random messages I send on there” – it’s a record of full vision, coloured with the shifting pain and revelation that comes with being heartbroken and left to pick up the pieces of something that’s been lost.

Title track “Some Reason”, featuring FEELDS, is at the root of the fall out. “Let something be my light,” he sings above a subtle rhythm that slowly builds into an emotional crescendo. It’s not exactly EDM as anyone has known it before, it’s a slightly different moniker: Emotional Dance Music. Finger clicks, synths, piano, cymbals, everything builds to the final statement: “for some damn reason”.

Life can often throw curveballs, upending a once-pleasant situation and clouding it with darkness. In these times the music of Hazey Eyes is important: a way to feel less alone, to reconsider things, to even find a kind of happy solace in the sadness – all of which is important to move forward. Part of that comes from his heavy metal background, some of it comes from his dabbling with EDM. Ultimately however, this is a new sound, a new feeling – a fresh light on the world.

- Ryan Bassil, Noisey

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