Sometime in the winter of 2012, while traveling between Berlin and his hometown of Montreal, Alex Zhang Hungtai recorded Drifters and Love is the Devil under his Dirty Beaches moniker. This double-LP, Hungtai’s follow up to 2011′s Badlands, is an emotional exorcism and an intensely personal foray into loneliness and isolation. Badlands, which coated rockabilly-affectation in a lo-fi aesthetic, aspired to sound like lost music falling between the sound waves of a shifting AM dial, but the double album Drifters/Love Is the Devil patiently redefines how a Dirty Beaches album can sound. Drifters begins by chipping away at Hungtai’s penchant for sweet, memorable hooks: “Night Walk” pulses along as Hungtai bellows and howls, evoking the Modern Lovers (“with the radio on”), while “Casino Lisboa” stutter-steps around an infectious groove and crashing organ lines.
Love is the Devil, Drifters‘ sister LP, meanwhile is the soundtrack to a travelogue filled with heartbreak and longing. The names of songs are perfect accompaniments to the slow overtures they describe: “Greyhound at Night,” “Alone at the Danube River” and “I Don’t Know How to Find My Way Back to You” are especially moving reflections. Hungtai’s lonely, weary music makes you feel like a permanent tourist, the significance of which must not be lost on him, who, as a child, often moved around from one home to another. Love Is The Devil carries the listener through weary days and nights spent in far-away places, dejected and alone, and the cumulative effect of these two albums is to reposition Hungtai as a post-punk punk descendant and dispirited millennial-generation composer.