Photo Credit: Meredith Truax
As we collectively lay adrift in an open ocean of uncertainty, bemused to the state of the world and our place within it, a twenty-something boy from New Jersey has spun a take on coping with *all of this* that’s worth your attention. Jeremy Zucker is a quickly rising star in the world of ASMR-lite bedroom pop who was tasked with releasing a debut LP during a paralyzing global pandemic. Not exactly ideal – but the admittedly introverted singer had the courage to go through with it, and the resulting body of work is as delightfully intimate as it is confoundingly infinite-sounding.
Zucker’s journey to releasing love is not dying involved a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology, a record deal with industry behemoth Republic, and a string of increasingly successful streaming singles, setting him up to capitalize on a population of isolated listeners grappling with wistful depression and stratospheric FOMO (fear of missing out). Though it was conceived and recorded before the world grounded to a halt, love is not dying has a prescient connection to cultural conversations at large (slightly-too-on-the-nose song titles “we’re f*cked, it’s fine” and “full stop”) and a sense that its creator knows exactly who he’s creating for. Confessional Tumblr posts about lost loves are blown up to their illogical limits like Macy’s Thanksgiving balloons, disguising the most identifying details with textural swaths of sound and leaving the finished product looking slightly distorted up close.
What Zucker does exceptionally well can also be found in the quieter moments of recent records released by his peers, namely Billie Eilish with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Lauv with ~how i’m feeling~, and King Princess and her Cheap Queen. His vocals sit on the cusp of the eardrums and static, circling guitar chords and fizzy drums wash over everything like bright sunlight; he broadcasts a delicate sensitivity until the levels are adjusted, the playing field shifts, and the listener is vacuumed up into space to hear the next ten seconds through a tin can telephone. These effects would otherwise seem disorienting if the sound wasn’t womblike in its total embrace of the listener; he aims to capture all the senses without resorting to total maximalism.
In crafting the record, Zucker and team created a long-form spectrogram to accompany the audio – a visual 3D representation of signal frequencies, or a picture of sound. Clearly seeking to further immerse listeners in a world of their own, he illustrated the importance of the spectrogram in his vision for users to “see the way it sounds.” It’s a sentimental piece of the work that the artist shares, but it’s also a subtle way to bring the studio a little closer to the masses. We’re already living in a world where making an album like this requires scant more than a bedroom; letting the listener in on the experience of creating can bring it home and connect the missing pieces for their own inspiration.
There might be pitfalls along the way on this journey – sometimes Zucker’s sadness can feel a little too relatable and slip into obscurity, and the inclusion of two prior singles as bonus tracks can only be read as a grab for a Billboard debut (successfully charting at #57). Yes, the album could absolutely live as a solid body of work without its bonus tracks, but the general pitfalls don’t distract from the overall message, which really does seem to be “we’re f*cked, it’s fine.” And isn’t that exactly the case?