Colleen Green - Cool (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Colleen Green

Cool (2021)

Hardly Art

Is Cool, the new album by Colleen Green a concept album? I think it is. The release starts with a paranoid track called “Someone else” where the subject thinks her boyfriend is double dealing. In fact, the track opens with a coldly spoken “he has someone else/they all do,” while a low rumbling bass drives forward. This sort of paranoid menace flows through a good part of the release, at times recalling the infinite darkness of Bauhaus, such as the ominous creep of “Highway”, and at other times revealing an unguarded openness, such as with “someone else.” That is, the subject is speaking her mind honestly, without guidance to the listener as to whether her perspective is “correct” or “good.” Some of the greatest soul music does this (see Soul Children’s “I’ll be the other woman”), and in this honesty, there’s real human connection. No one’s perfect, and we all suffer from anger or frustration or pettiness or wrongful suspicion- and Green’s openness here (or the song’s subject) shows her bravery as an artist and it is just the thing that takes music like this from good to transcendent.

But then, there’s the kicker. On “Someone else,” just as Green sets up the icy section, she breaks out into a pop sing-songy cadence before revealing that the suspicions are probably correct. That is, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that the thing you’re worried about isn’t real. She bends this spacey vibe to different purposes throughout the album. “Highway”, with its sinister intro, details a conflict in lifestyles while Green uses a spartan attack quite effectively. There’s really only three or four sounds in the track- Green’s voice, drums, bass, and ghostly backing vocals. But the extreme closeup on her voice framed by the spooky chords says all you need to know without actually saying it. To that end, Green’s skill as a guitarist shines through here and throughout the album. She favors powerful, atmospheric hanging and then suddenly… a feedback, sharp riff stabs out of the shifting backdrop almost like a killer in a horror movie. Green is playing with contrast so well that the different tones lock together. Brian Eno has a philosophy to delete parts of a song until what remains cannot be deleted. It sounds like Green did that here and EVERYTHING hits like a brick.

Take, for example, the lumbering bass on “You don’t exist.” It seems like Green is pondering how the age of social media has erased what people truly are, only leaving the trace of a person on digital platforms- well, that’s my take. Meanwhile, the kraut-rock/space rock bass drives this forward until Green jumps in with the chorus “You don’t exist / you don’t exi-ssss-t!” If the lyrics weren’t so bleak, I’d think the melody was from a Madonna or Cindy Lauper album.

But, while a certain menace or dread permeates the album, the main finale is “I believe in love.” Sure, we’ve trekked through paranoia, conflicting life perspective, and even self-erasure, but at the end, Green finds the light in the universe. It’s almost like a twist ending- We trekked through a cold universe only to a find a sort of happiness and optimism at the center. Cool is not only a masterful release sonically, but it strikes a cosmic chord that few release can hit. I’m just glad that chord is a positive one… for all of our sakes.