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Debut albums are rarely fully-formed. Rather, they tend to act as a foundation upon which an artist can work on their craft and achieve their vision. It is for this reason that No One Loves You, the debut album from Atlanta’s Blis. is all the more impressive: The record is immensely confident and immediately flooring upon the first listen, blurring the boundaries of emo, shoegaze, and even post-hardcore.
Perhaps well-roundedness can be attributed to the timespan within which the songs were written, some were penned up to three years ago and others coming about just before the band entered the studio. Although Blis. has existed in some capacity frontman Aaron Gossett graduated high school, the full lineup of the band — which now includes Gossett, drummer Jimi Ingman, bassist Luke Jones, guitarist Josiah Smith — formed less than five years ago. Having a length of years between the oldest and most recent songs on No One Loves You allowed the band to really refine the sound they were going for, while consulting an incredibly wide range of musical influences for the record, from Nine Inch Nails to Pedro The Lion to Brand New.
The record opens with “Dumb,” a track that shows the band’s mastery of the loud-soft dynamic, with Gossett’s whispered vocals turning quickly to impassioned wails that sound completely unique. “Dumb” sets the scene for eleven tracks that show a range of sounds that could seem inconceivable to a band releasing their first full-length record. Remarkably, Blis. makes it seem natural.
Take, for example, the album’s fourth track, the interlude “Servant,” a short and absolutely breathtaking ambient number sandwiched between two of the record’s loudest tracks. It’s not very often that a debut album would experiment this heavily with a sound so different than the track both before and after. “It’s nice because it’s very vulnerable between the two songs,” frontman Aaron Gossett said over the phone. “It’s that kind of calm to just take your mind out of the last song, and then it was a nice-length transition between the two.”
After the hard one-two punch in the face of “Take Me Home” fades into the distance, the eerie dissonance of the interlude evokes a sense of recovery honestly unlike anything I have ever heard before. It feels like falling in slow-motion into an abyss, but one that feels welcoming instead of frightening; the perfect soundtrack for embracing one’s reality. The feeling doesn’t last very long, though, before listeners are once again pummeled by the hard-hitting drums marking the onset of “Old Man.”
The lengthy timeline of No One Loves You also allowed Gossett to come full-circle in his songwriting after the birth of his son, whose photo adorns of the cover of the record. “I realized that the record — or at least the older songs like ‘Take Me Home’ and ‘Dumb’ that have been around for a long time that we just never went and recorded — had always been about my own relationship with my dad. And then when I had a kid, I started writing songs about being a dad instead of talking about my own dad and then the record just kind of like evolves from like this transcending generations.”
The news of Gossett’s arriving son caused a lot of tension between himself and the mother, because she comes from a very religious family and he has a clear-cut opposition to organized religion. “They were not receptive to the idea that we were having a kid, especially not being married. And I had never met her parents, so it was just kind of a weird situation and they didn’t seem like they wanted to go out of their way to pursue any sort of a relationship with me. I actually didn’t even meet her parents until she was like six months pregnant.”
Much of this helpless stress went into Gossett’s songwriting, which he used as an outlet to work through the issues with his girlfriend, her family, and the implications of having a child together. “I had no idea how to help her. She really wanted to have this family with us. She really wanted to be happy, but she also wanted to be accepted by her own family.”
Gossett considers “Home” and “Christian Girls,” the album’s eight and ninth track, to epitomize this idea. With the latter in particular, many of the lyrics deal with manipulation and control, and the ways that religion plays into one’s life in the southern United States. In his eyes, many allow the doctrines to dictate their lives and force their mentality toward racism and homophobia and away from love, a concept for which he has little tolerance.
The narrative theme of No One Loves You is a culmination of experiences that played a role in Gossett’s new family, with religion perhaps posing the largest threat to their well-being. Since the birth of their son, Gossett’s partner has had what he describes as an “awakening” that allowed her to put her concepts of religion into perspective and to re-focus herself on their raising a child together. With the immense pressures now behind them, Gossett’s new family is bound together by love, rather than the falsehoods magnified by manipulation.
The album’s title is meant to encompass all of these feelings, taking the final lyrics from “Lost Boy,” a love letter to his partner and a criticism of her blind following of what she was set up to believe: “No one loves you like I do,” he whispers, before proclaiming, “No god loves you like I do.
When asked about the album’s title, Gossett takes a moment to think about how to consolidate its meaning into a concise statement. Finally, he speaks:
“There’s no big thing up there that cares about you. But there’s a lot of people down here that do.”