“All I want is to be happy/All I want is love,” Sven Gamsky, a.k.a. Still Woozy, declares on “Drake,” a track from his debut album, If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. The lyric encapsulates Gamsky’s romantic obsession from within a closed loop of internal doubts. He wants love, but he can’t get out of his head. The conflicting impulses create a neat irony and friction that powers his music. Bubbly, upbeat, and eminently listenable, the album conveys even its confessions of distress with triumphant confidence.
Gamsky echoes these thematic conflicts through a mix of genre-blending, as the album’s sound draws from folk and hip-hop, packaged together in a dozen tightly arranged and catchy songs. If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is was produced and mixed in Gamsky’s home studio garage, which gives the music an insular, bedroom-pop feel. “You wouldn’t last a day in my head,” he warns on the album’s opening track, “Woof.” The arrangements are elemental but appealingly melodic. Imagine if Kurt Vile cut out all of the virtuosic noodling from his nine-minute opuses and distilled their essence to approximately two-and-a-half minutes.
Gamsky’s realization of his subconscious romantic yearnings come to the fore on the album’s second track, “Rocky,” where he sings of only being able to accept that his lover cares about him when he’s asleep or dreaming. He delves further into this kind of emotional purgatory on “Get By,” where he muses, “I can’t take anymore/But I can’t get enough,” caught between what he desires and what he can handle—of either love or perhaps substances.
These thorny emotional predicaments are reflected in the songs’ embodiment of life’s ups and downs. Throughout If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is, the music’s fluctuating tempos capture a sense of idling boredom (especially on “These Days”), while Gamsky’s habit of rapidly sing-rapping a mouthful of words following significantly quieter moments evokes the seeming randomness of artistic inspiration. And he manages to give it all a slick momentum.
Or, most of it, anyway. In certain moments, like the straightforward rock song “Kenny,” Gamsky languishes in ennui to the point of dreariness. When Gamsky foregrounds his experimentation with genre, If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is soars, delivering spritely hook after hook that balance out the album’s gloomy lyrical content.