Henry Kohen is, by all accounts, a swell guy who has been justifiably surprised at the attention he has received: after emailing Cathy from Sargent House openly asking how to go about a music career, he got signed, went on national and international tours, spent the last year writing at a farm, and has gained recognition from no less than Vice and the New York Times (collectively about as great a response as you could ever hope to get). Much of his attention comes, again justifiably, from his ability to run his effects-laden guitar and drum machine through a loop station as a live one-man-band (a laBob Log III and Theo), something I have never seen done so proficiently and with so many twists. Watch any live video if you’re still in the dark. Less common among the dropped jaws are accolades of Henry’s songwriting ability, which is demonstrably excellent. His 2013 work, Retcon, retained an unwonted beauty due in part to its fusion of pop, rock, and scratchy vocals.
Arizona, Kohen’s highly anticipated follow-up, is irresistibly catchy. Choruses and riffs of tracks like ‘Trembling Hands’, ‘Arizona’, ‘Honeypot’ and ‘Retcon’, most of which have been honed well in live settings, have been stuck in my head for upwards of months now. Incidentally, it must have been hard for Henry to pick which version of each song to put on the record, as some songs have several remarkably different live versions.
Perhaps most impressive is that Mylets pulls together influences from all over in a way that doesn’t make it feel like any of those. There’s what you might expect (post-rock at the end of ‘Honeypot’, metal And So I Watch You From Afar-style riffery in ‘King Sleep’, and scattered odd time signatures that help make those choruses catchier), and what you might not, for example: a raw heart-on-sleeve emo-tinged vocal break in ‘Seven Seals’, reverbed percussion and guitar distortion that gives a slight 80s feel, and a harmonised solo in ‘King Sleep’ that wouldn’t be out of place if done by The Darkness. Henry’s back-of-the-throat vocals are, at times, reminiscent of a young Ian Mackaye; the release of raw, vocal energy appears almost at odds with the meticulous multi-management of his instruments.
If that all sounds bizarre, well, it both is and isn’t. Arizona belongs in the collections of fans of both math and pop, joining the likes of, among others, Youthmovies’ Good Nature and This Town Needs Guns (TTNG)‘ Animals.
Pop, rock, math rock, odd rhythms, progressive, one-piece