Album Review: Lawrence Rotham – I Know I’ve Been Wrong, But Can We Talk?

Album Review: Lawrence Rotham - I Know I’ve Been Wrong, But Can We Talk?

Shannon Durazo

Lawrence Rotham- I Know I’ve Been Wrong, but Can We Talk? (Downtown) [art-pop/alt-electro]

In a polished new six-song EP, Lawrence Rotham uses upbeat synth-pop numbers to tackle the most downbeat of topics. From close friend Bobby’s, who the album is dedicated to, untimely suicide in May, to their parental estrangement after coming out as gender fluid, every song is a deeply personal archive of the events of last spring. The title of the record, “I Know I’ve Been Wrong, But Can We Talk?” is pulled straight from a text message Lawrence received from their father this spring after four years of silence between the two. It’s the kind of vague allusion to deeply personal subjects in the album’s title that reflect the structure of the mini-album as a whole. Rotham values transparency, but it takes a bit of digging into their lyrics for the personal subject matter to be understood clearly.

The trend of pairing dark lyrics to light production is no new concept in present synth-pop, but Lawrence Rotham is up there with the likes of John Maus and How to Dress Well in how seamlessly they execute the contradiction, and without sounding forced. Producer YVES (of Yves Tumor) has a heavy role to play in this, his production centers around light-footed drums, but paired with a nice overlay of melancholy synth and bass notes which complement the intuitive sadness of the lyrics. Opener “Oath” layers in a lazy electro-melody while Rotham despairingly croons “I watch you spread your disease//I’m not a witness, but never an absentee.” The lyrics outline the guilt Lawrence feels for not noticing their friend Bobby’s depression that led to suicide, a sense of partial-responsibility in the act because of this.

The record is released just one year after their mixed-rating debut LP The Book of Law, which largely dealt with Rotham struggling with both their Queer identity and persistent substance abuse. But where at times that album flies high on ambition yet falls a bit flat on delivery, this new EP feels both comfortably accessible yet noticeably unique, and its release based less on proving Rotham’s worth as an artist and more as a way to cope with immediate tragedy. It’s a promising release, and it’ll be exciting to see how Lawrence Rotham’s craft flourishes with their identity as time goes on.

Recommended: 1, 3, 4  RIYL: John Maus, How to Dress Well