Album artwork for Jeremy Zucker’s love is not dying.
By Rob Mohr and Mary Katherine Saye
MK: If you’re not looking for some heartbreak songs, don’t let the album’s title deceive you. Jeremy Zucker’s newest album, love is not dying, is the soundtrack playing in the background of every girl’s tumultuous teenage years.
A gloomy piano takes up most of “orchid,” the longest track on love is not dying. It seems to begin the tone of hopelessness that continues through most of the songs on the album. This track is the only one that features an electric guitar for the bridge of the song, setting it apart from many of the songs which sound the same and have similar stories of heartbreak in them.
In “hell or flying,” the gloomy piano returns. Yet unlike other songs such as “lakehouse” or “good for her,” this song doesn’t try to let you know how sad falling out of love is— which comes off as excessive in this album. Rather, Zucker’s words following the rhythm of the piano gives this song a beautiful quality that one is hard-pressed to find in other tracks.
The next track, “always, i’ll care,” is by far my favorite song in the album. The piano plays a memorable upbeat tune throughout, and no instrument or electronic sound is too overpowering. The lyrics promise a more positive outlook on relationships, assuring that someone will always care and suggesting that perhaps love isn’t just heartbreak after all.
There aren’t many tracks on this album I would listen to on repeat. However, songs such as “always, i’ll care” prove that gems can be found in almost any album, and I will definitely not disregard whatever Zucker has planned next.
Rob: In the physically separated world we’ve suddenly found ourselves in, I feel like pop music and its devotees aren’t looking for over-engineered, worldwide-tour style music with backup singers and horn sections. That type of sound just makes us feel lonely and nostalgic for the pre-COVID-19 world of sold out arenas and elaborate pyrotechnics. Instead, I think we’re craving authenticity and simplicity.
Zucker steps into our iTunes library and Spotify playlists offering exactly that self-produced brand of sound. Overall, the aural palette is full of static and other “lo-fi” elements like distortion and feedback, which drives home the sonic intimacy. However, don’t mistake the low production value for messy or unconsidered work; Zucker uploaded a spectrogram of the album to YouTube with unnormalized audio.
Essentially, Spotify and Apple Music “flatten out” the dynamic range or loudness of their music so that going from a really quiet classical piece and a crazy loud rock song doesn’t blow out your eardrums. The attention to detail shines through when the dynamics of the music are allowed to run wild, and everything just feels a bit more robust.
That being said, some areas of the album are stronger than others. Zucker will occasionally go for some really big, powerful vocals that don’t quite work. He does this on “orchid” and on the bonus track “you were good to me,” which features Chelsea Cutler, and it just does not click. However, when he’s singing more softly, he really hits the mark. Songs like “lakehouse” and “not ur friend” are in that softer vocal range and they sound intimate and genuine. I also have to give kudos to “lakehouse” for a really nice build up to some harder drums and electric guitar; it definitely packs some emotional power.
At the end of the day, love is not dying has relevance to our present time with it’s emotional rawness. I also think that it toes the line between fuzzy lo-fi and clever production work very well. Finally, I really recommend listening to the YouTube version of this album, it can completely reframe how you experience it.