Lyricist: Henry Kohen.
Audio Mixer: Sonny DiPerri.
Recording information: Kingsize Soundlabs.
Heralded by the mechanical, grunge-industrial slam of opener "Trembling Hands," the album debut by Los Angeles-via-Indiana artist Mylets is an arresting event. The work of 20-year-old experimental guitarist and singer Henry Kohen, Arizona is the culmination of a journey that saw the young musician drop out of college, court future label Sargent House, and then relocate from the Midwest to L.A. to record his debut album for them. After adopting the Mylets moniker in his midteens, the Columbus, Indiana native self-released a series of EPs based around his intricate, loop-based guitar songs, which paired shredded emo vocals with complex art pop. Songs from three of these EPs were collected on the 2013 release Retcon, which Sargent House released as a sort of introduction to Kohen's work, while he and producer Sonny Diperri (Portugal. The Man, Hanni El Khatib) crafted the nine-song Arizona. Bigger, stronger, and yet still roiling with plenty of anger, Kohen hits the ground running with confidence and swagger that were absent from his earlier work. The epic melodies and needle-burying thickness of "Trembling Hands" feel more like a young Trent Reznor at the top of his game, and the punchy, looping riffs of the title cut show a more accessible pop element to his work. A mix of live drums and relentless drum machine mechanics support many of these songs, which also now feature skittering synths, like on the raging twin-guitar instrumental "King Sleep." By the time Arizona reaches its midway point, however, the highlights start to slow down, with subtler tracks like "Seven Seals" and "Homes" demanding less immediate attention. Whether or not the album was intentionally front-loaded with Kohen's heavier and more accessible songs, the pace feels disrupted and the initial excitement of "side one" fades as the tracks get slower and dreamier. The closer "Shark" is a richly harmonic, pop-leaning ballad that builds steadily, but never quite captures the immediacy of the album's first half, making Arizona's overall impression a tale of two cities. ~ Timothy Monger