A post-punk band composed of a single individual (singer Niccolò Contessa), I Cani enters the Italian indie pop/rock scene with an album that maybe isn’t as innovative as it would have you believe (its title roughly translates as “I Cani’s surprising debut album”) as it is compositionally sound.
After a brief instrumental introduction that emerges from everyday-life sounds, the listener is pulled into a tour of all the bittersweet facets of living in the big city: from late-teenage feelings of not fitting in and turning to intellectual idols such as David Foster Wallace and Daniel Johnston (“Hipsteria”) to the tiring ritual of clubbing in search of a mate (“Door Selection”), from less-than-functional relationships (“Le Coppie”) to growing old a failure (“Post Punk”), all seen through the jaded eyes of someone that’s critical of the game but loves every player.
Contessa’s synths sound the right amount of vintage but manage to stay away from the genre’s occupational hazard of unmediated 80’s sonic revivalism.
The melodies are simple (also because the impression is that they were composed with a hand on the modulation wheel) but expertly layered, and most songs organized in crescendos that culminate with moments of emotional intensity and sensory density, with more than a hint of dirt.
The rhythm section is solid and concedes to the songwriter’s more punk sensibilities, with classic grooves that know when to skip a bar (or four) and simple, tight bass lines that never fail to make you bob your head, always well audible in the mix.
The album closes with “Wes Anderson”, a perfect song to silently nurse your drink in a corner at a very fun party; with upbeat melodies and lyrics more bittersweet than the album’s average, it provides a satisfying conclusion to the experience. The track fizzles out in a drawn-out spiral of noisy feedback, closing the circle.
Contessa strikes the balance between the genre’s typical intellectual nostalgia and a self-awareness that never becomes the whole point, between infectiously upbeat dancey tunes and sensitive sonic solutions, between existential dread and silly hope.
You can stream the album on Spotify.
The first music video from the album, “Hipsteria”, was realized by the Collettivo Art Cock as a tribute to the 1962 film La Jetée by Chris Marker.