Gallant’s ‘Sweet Insomnia’ is an impressive show of vocal ability

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Gallant’s ‘Sweet Insomnia’ is an impressive show of vocal ability

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Maya Nayak, A&E Editor

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Singer and songwriter Christopher Gallant has occupied the liminal space between severely underrated and mainstream since his debut in 2014. He has amassed extensive critical acclaim—the shortlist of which includes a Grammy nomination and recognition from Billboard and Spotify—but is still not widely known outside of the R&B and soul genres. His latest album, Sweet Insomnia, shows promise for providing the additional momentum his musical career needs. If Gallant’s previous works were a testament to his lyricism, Insomnia is a testament to his vocal range, as Gallant flexes seamless transitions to his dulcet falsettos. Its polished nature is reminiscent of the 1990s and 2000s R&B, but it gains additional diversity from its incorporation of soft rock elements.

Sweet Insomnia is brimming with juxtaposition, as the title suggests; the lyricism of “Panasonic,” for instance, critiques fame against a mellow, nostalgia-inducing backdrop. The playful, simple piano chord progressions of “Crimes” similarly contrast Gallant’s detailing of a relationship gone awry. The juxtaposition always provides functionality. “Sharpest Edges” describes a relationship that simultaneously results in happiness and pain. The contradiction between these two concepts is furthered by the contradiction between mushy instrumentation on “Sharpest Edges” and its pained lyricism.

If Gallant were ever to be spuriously labeled as one-note, the title track “Sweet Insomnia” acts as a perfect refutation in its fusion of elements of ‘70s rock with ‘90s R&B. The track sees Gallant’s meandering, fragile vocals anchored by featured artist 6lack’s more moody, robust sound. Its hazy melodies, syncopated percussion, and propulsive bass riff supply the foundations for the track’s dreamy, ethereal instrumentation. Though the dramatic vocal style Gallant assumes has roots in retro R&B, 6lack’s crisp vocals cut through for an equally contemporary feel.

The album’s minimalistic production is consistently artfully executed. “Compromise,” featuring Sabrina Claudio, shines, with an infectious tropical beat furthered by extensive use of synthesizers. The bleak, robotic 808 synthesizers on “Paper Tulips” are comparably apt for its bleak message about Gallant’s recognition of his faults in a relationship.

Insomnia’s faults lie solely in its regrettably short length, lasting only 35 minutes in its entirety. Its brevity is forgivable, however, due to the album’s commendable lack of filler. Even “410,” the album’s introduction, and interludes “Forever 21” and “Konami” are engaging.

Sweet Insomnia had the daunting task of following up Gallant’s previous album, Ology, but it is far from disappointing. On Insomnia, Gallant further reinforces his status as a force to be reckoned with through an impressive show of vocal ability.