Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Heaven to a Tortured Mind, the new release from Yves Tumor.
The Yves Tumor project’s fashioning itself in a traceable lineage of unbridled rockstars, and this time, it’s gone more pop than ever. Granted, this comes at neither an expense of innovation nor a bend to the whims of convention. Convention and Yves Tumor don’t belong in the same sentence, even when Tumor colors more neatly within the lines. That said, it’s taken their fourth studio album for their hit-making capabilities to fully align with their dazzling attention to iconography and worldbuilding. While their previous effort elevated them to critical darling status for fearless (and brilliant) experimentation, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is an album that frolics through all the tricks of rockstars past, granting Sean Bowie the brunt of the spotlight to breathe intoxicating life into the annals of genre cliché. It’s dizzying, often electrifying, and distanced enough to ensure the fourth wall never falls no matter how many times Bowie smiles for the camera.
By design, the new iteration of Yves Tumor entertains a wicked fixation with temptation and desire. The sightline proves familiar, yet fruitful: when Tumor pines for devotion, to feel, it always registers with conviction, whether it’s crooning quietly or blaring from the depths of the underworld. For every well-worn trope of a rock opus, Tumor aligns its feelings with many horrific visions of violence, featuring many teeth, drops of blood, and severed heads. Working together, the romantic idealism is once again cast astray as Tumor rearranges the pieces of history.
Yves has always been one for range, and Heaven realizes many new facets of its potential as a time-warped character building new monuments from the remnants of its predecessor. And thanks to the likes of Diana Gordon and Kelsey Lu, the vocal execution makes for often-chilling results ranging from the narration of a hellish fever dream to an explosive arena rock showstopper. It’s the music kingdoms fall to, the soundtrack to an audible ego death.
As I recall how Safe in the Hands of Love floored me for the sheer boldness of its ideas, Heaven to a Tortured Mind uses trace amounts of accessible markers to lure me into the boldness of what Tumor does with them. Funk basslines, brass samples, and guitar solos aboud, each landscape never afraid to spin itself out in disorienting yet enchanting fashion. It’s intriguing to call Heaven more sonically forgiving for a swing at mainstream, but that’d be a half-truth. Every gentle stride in the sonic palette finds itself quickly disrupted by Bowie’s masterful attention to detail that satiates itself on the ability to unearth the listener’s comforts and expectations.
Listeners can trace a little of everything across decades and genre, but the final blend serves as a rich journey for the well-acquainted, as well as the uninitiated. All 36 minutes beg to be amplified on long rides down the highway to nowhere, Yves Tumor serving as the ringleader guiding us towards sacrificing for our wildest fantasies. It’s the rockstar future we’ve deserved, and a present remaining difficult to prepare for, yet one we’ll gleefully enable. (This global moment’s spiraling uncertainty only serves as a prime backdrop.)
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.