des hume's 'Bub' Turns Private Heartbreak into Sweeping, Universal Beauty

des hume's 'Bub' Turns Private Heartbreak into Sweeping, Universal Beauty
8
Bub was supposed to be des hume's Big Statement. Vancouver songwriter Thom Kolb teased the album frequently when he launched the project circa 2017, and subsequent singles came with the promise that the full-length was on the way. Four years later, des hume finally dropped the album as a Bandcamp exclusive with just a few days' warning — hardly a grand roll-out for the project's debut album.

The low-key release befits Bub's intimate beauty. Kolb recorded these songs when he was still getting his footing as an synthpop producer — so while recent stand-alone singles like "Notes App Apology" and the minor indie hit "Wild World" have been comparatively slick, Bub has the raw electronic haze of a circa-2009 chillwave album. It sounds like a burgeoning bedroom producer capturing ideas in their rawest forms.

Bub incorporates the swagger of '90s R&B into the gauzy reverb of '80s pop, drenching the whole thing in lovesick melancholia. "Need You Now" is anchored by a simple synth figure that's catchy enough for MGMT, while "Slow Motion" evokes arena rock with its cavernous guitar riffs and epic drum fills — but instead of the celebratory catharsis of sonic touchstones, des hume sings lovelorn admissions of heartbreak: "I need you now / More than I ever thought that I would" and "Can we move in slow motion / So I can get over you."

These thudding pop bangers are interspersed with unadorned sketches: the acoustic lament "Catch a Wind" and closing piano torch song "Don't U Know?" have the quality of voice note demos.

It all comes together on stunning centrepiece "So Good," which begins as a sparse Auto-Tune ballad before going widescreen with twinkling arpeggiators in the final 30 seconds. With its epic, Hollywood-sized melodrama, it sounds like the best moment of any M83 album. des hume may have recorded Bub cheaply in his apartment and then sat on the recordings for years — but here, he's created something sweeping and universal. (Independent)