Conan Gray – Found Heaven

A British love affair set to pop maturity...

Conan Gray has been through it. New album ‘Found Heaven’ is a tale of love lost, a song cycle about passion, attraction, connection and severance. CLASH caught the American star at a recent album playback, and he dedicated the record to British guys – while warning us not to date them. Hymns to a trans-Atlantic romance, ‘Found Heaven’ shows that parting remains such sweet sorrow.

In keeping for a British love affair, there’s a heavy dose of the Second British Invasion on display. Switching his glossy pop towards analogue synths, you can hear aspects of everyone from the Human League to OMD via The Cure at their imperial chart-crushing best. There’s also a healthy dose of his own personality, though with Conan Gray refusing to walk in anyone else’s path.

The highs are numerous. The choral intro to the title track swiftly gives way to pop maximalism, the neat effects swirling around his subdued vocal. ‘Fainted Love’ – with its titular nod to Soft Cell – is actually an MJ homage, rivalling the Weeknd in its retro-futurist prowess.

‘The Final Flight’ finds Conan Gray lingering somewhere over the Atlantic, in a liminal state between passion and security. ‘Miss You’ seems to half-inch the opening notes from The Dream Academy’s perennial ultra-banger ‘Life In A Northern Town’ for its sweeping melodrama, while the fun ‘Boys & Girls’ is the single Phil Oakey forgot to write.

It’s not all neat reference points, however. ‘Bougeoisieses’ discusses class differences, with Conan Gray musing on the disparities between his poor Southern upbringing, and the veneer of the LA world he finds himself in. ‘Winner’ is all about the vocal, a striking, lovelorn take on the break up – or breakdown – of a relationship. Humble and pure, it’s one of the record’s most open and affecting moments.

A step beyond 2022’s ‘Superache’, ‘Found Heaven’ stretches Conan Gray’s pop template once more. Often emotive, it lingers on his truth while relishing synth-pop immediacy.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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