At first, I was trying to find an eloquent way to compare The End to a dumpster fire, but there's nothing flattering about piles of burning trash, and this album is far from that. It's more like being suffocated by lo-fi textures of distorted noises that are going off inside your head. Henry Laufer is ringing the alarm, shaking us awake to face our inner turmoil before we completely self-destruct. You don't necessarily have to believe in the apocalypse to understand where the producer's mind was at when setting the mood for this dark atmosphere. In a promotional press release for the project, he explained how The End captures "the fake peace of insularity during chaos." His attachment to his hometown of Los Angeles could be attributed to molding this conflicted outlook – there's something cultish about living somewhere warm that's soaked with sunshine, dreams, and promises, but turns so many people into vapid social climbers blinded by fame and fortune.
For loyal fans of Shlohmo, this record has been a long time coming – four years in the making to be exact. In the interim, he stayed grinding by collaborating with a variety of artists including Post Malone, Joji, Chance the Rapper, Yung Lean, Lil Yachty, and Corbin. In addition to running WEDIDIT with his friends, Shlohmo also scored A24's forthcoming film Share which recently premiered at Sundance. He even has a photo book titled Send Help on the way. So was this album worth the wait amidst all the moving parts? Are these 13 tracks enough to hold us all over?
Back in 2017, Shlohmo debuted some of the tracks featured on the project live during his headlining tour with D33J and Corbin. Watching him transform into a rockstar as he shred on the guitar while performing "The End" and "Rock Music" was absolutely mesmerizing and left everyone wanting more. In many ways, The End is a soundtrack for spiraling, but the listener has the autonomy to choose their own adventure – are you falling downward or upward? Shlohmo jabs us with pings of nostalgia with the use of toy drum machines, cassette tapes, and laser beams as heard on "We Sat in the Car" and "Panic Attack." The cradling track "Headache of the Year" is a head banger that slowly builds with every guitar riff until it blasts off. He nods to the influences of goth and new wave on "Hopeless," whereas "Ungrateful" is inspired by metal and hardcore. Shlohmo even samples himself on "The Best of Me," an introspective earworm that serves as a still moment of self-reflection. Meanwhile, the static toward the end of "By Myself" sounds like a crumbling that no one else can hear because it's a soft demise happening from the inside.
The album closes with the deeply meditative song "Still Life," a depiction of the big "ah ha" moment when your perspective finally begins to shift and you see things clearly in a new light. Is that the ocean's waves crashing on the shore or birds chirping in the wind? Is this real or imaginary? It's hard to tell when your mind has fully unraveled and freely wanders toward a fresh start. The End is a beautiful mess as Shlohmo anxiously drags us through the grounding experience of a breakthrough after a breakdown; it's emotionally heavy without weighing you down to the point of total exhaustion. Dare I say that it might even leave you with a new sense of hope for the future.