Album Review: Photographic Memory – ‘Photographic Memory’

Posted: by The Editor


Photographic Memory, the sophomore LP by LA-based Photographic Memory, recalls in a few ways the recent albums by The 1975. Some songs do indeed sound like them—“Hear Nothing” and “OG Peebo” have more than a little of the 1975’s ‘80s indebted pop in their DNA, and “Big Branch” and “Teen Flick” aren’t far off from the bright, swaggering pop rock of “Me & You Together Song”—but the real comparison is in the wide array of styles tackled in each. Photographic Memory opens with a jittery hyperpop panic attack, contains flashes of singer-songwriter melancholia, and then turns into a dream pop record midway through. Unlike The 1975’s scattershot and frequently unwieldy past two records, Photographic Memory works as a single cohesive piece.

This is almost certainly because of its far shorter runtime. At just under 27 minutes, Photographic Memory doesn’t even get the chance to overstay its welcome; the average song length is only two-and-a-half minutes, only three songs break past the three-minute mark. Those songs that earn it; the aforementioned “Big Branch” and “Teen Flick” are certified earworms, and “On the Floor” emphasizes the pop in dream pop. Unfortunately, the album’s brevity sometimes inhibits it; the opening and closing tracks are some of the most creative on the record, but play out in less than two minutes each. “I Went to Your Hood and Nobody Knew You” is an aggressive slice of hyperpop, but ends up feeling somewhat repetitive and as a result ends up a less than wholly satisfying closer.

When the album settles, at the start of the b-side, into its dream pop portion is when it really hits its groove. “Home Start” is a beautiful, ambient and spacey track enhanced by the voice modulation and auto-tune; it’s a unique play on the genre that adds to the atmosphere. The duet with up-and-comer Rat Tally, “Twirl Back,” is a straightforward cut with a memorable chorus, and “On the Floor” is the perfect sampler of all of Photographic Memory’s strengths. As noted above, it’s one of the best showcases of Max Epstein’s pop sensibilities wrapped up in a hazy gauze; it splits the difference well between the more atmospheric tendencies of Photographic Memory and the poppier. 

Its placement only enhances it, nestled between “Twirl Back” and “Teen Flick,” acting as a perfect bridge. While “I Went to Your Hood” is a fine if underwhelming closer, Photographic Memory’s sequencing is one of its greatest assets; despite the variety of sounds explored throughout its run, none of the transitions are jarring. Instead, each seems cleverly choreographed by the songs preceding. It ends up a cohesive, impressively ambitious album that displays an undeniable talent.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison