With more and more albums these days being stuffed to the gills with uninspired filler to inflate those streaming numbers, there’s never been a better time to come out in praise of the shorter formats: mini-LPs, EPs, double-sided singles. While they’re often ignored in conversations about an artist’s accomplishments, there’s a particular kind of virtue in being able to create depth, purpose, and cohesion all in the span of your average TV episode. If you’re looking for that kind of quick pick-me-up, a project that builds and disassembles that immersion without consuming your entire afternoon (looking at you, Culture II), Secret Sibling might be just what you’re looking for.
Live Like Before flies in right under 25 minutes, and Michael Sachs’ experimental pop project doesn’t exactly bury it’s darkness—the second lyric is "What if I told you a secret? / Life isn’t going how I’d like"—but its sonic misdirections sound right on cue for the warming of the seasons and the yearly realization that, while winter goes away, your howling existential dread doesn’t. Rather than wear it on his sleeve, Sachs crafts sunny instrumentals, mostly using warm synthesizers that sound piped in from delirious Animal Crossing daydreams, and infuses them with stark portraits of anxiety. “I don’t want to be abandoned in the peak of New York summer,” he sings over a lumbering bump of electronic drums on “Missing Out On,” and on the title track he nails the problem right on the head: “Friends, they try to reach out / I get tired of trying to smile / And I think a lot about how to be good.”
Live Like Before may be brief, but lyrically and instrumentally, particularly in his use of horns and field recordings to put you right in the middle of that fearful New York summer, Secret Sibling brings his confessional intensity to you with the kind, self-aware attitude of a lifelong best friend.