When Cigarettes After Sex released its demo album, Romans 13:9, in 2011, it almost posed as a Smiths copycat — but frontman Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous voice perked ears. With a voice that could hush and comfort a crowd of rioters, Gonzalez knew his voice could be used for something more than a replication of what’s already been done.
When 2012’s I. EP emerged, Gonzalez and fans alike knew the band was on to something, so much so that the frontman decided he wanted to keep this refined sound forever. He’s eight years in now and, lucky for us, has kept his promise despite a handful of lineup changes.
Cigarettes After Sex’s dream pop, ambient music is a reminder of the world we want — one that’s ethereal and lovey-dovey — and not the one we have, plagued with endless political turmoil. Though its 2017 self-titled album is its complete work to date — and a nearly flawless project at that — the band has hardly ever done any wrong, which makes for a difficult but much-needed ranking of its entire discography.
40. “Every Light Is Out” (Romans 13:9)
If you listen to the rest of Cigarettes After Sex’s music before diving into Romans 13:9, you’re going to be immediately thrown off. The change of pace isn’t entirely bad, but “Every Light Is Out” is flat-out weird. The eerie, alien-esque synth fluttering all throughout is … a choice, and the low-pitched voice saying “I’m comin’ home,” along with the song’s repetition altogether, is a bit aggravating.
39. “Lay Here” (Romans 13:9)
If you think the repetition of “Every Light Is Out” is irritating, don’t even bother with “Lay Here.” It only has three verses, the first two being the exact same, and the third is the phrase “and it’s driving me crazy” over and over again with the first couple verses interspersed. However, the guitar is objectively catchy, and Gonzalez’s vocals are soothing.
38. “Dreaming of You” (I. EP)
Most Cigarettes After Sex songs span the four- to five-minute range, but this one at five minutes, 22 seconds just seems too long. It should end around the three-minute mark — before it seems like it transforms into nothing. The monotonous keys become annoying after a while, and the toned-down guitar solo is pretty but not memorable.
37. “Affection” (single)
Gonzalez may tease his girlfriend, but the intent is always with love. Though the vibe is dreamy, as always, it almost seems too slow, even for Cigarettes After Sex. Gonzalez’s vocals don’t bounce off the guitar as well as usual, either.
36. “Woman with a Crow (The Last Train)” (Romans 13:9)
Gonzalez noticed a woman on the train who he couldn't take his eyes off. The drums and simplistic yet energetic keys are stimulating. Gonzalez also just sounds like he’s having fun with those harmonies, and it’s infectious.
35. “Touch” (Cry)
Though Gonzalez and his partner are gradually drifting apart, he’s invariably pulled back in every time he runs his fingers down her skin. The bass and Gonzalez’s airy tone are equally lovely, but the track overall doesn’t offer much otherwise.
34. “Do You Know Where I Should Go?” (Romans 13:9)
Gonzalez is at a loss in his life and doesn’t know how to move on after this undisclosed hardship has consumed him. This demo album is the epitome of repetition, but Gonzalez’s tone is just too insane not to appreciate.
33. “Young & Dumb” (Cigarettes After Sex)
Imagine thinking “Ah, yes, let’s put ‘the patron saint of sucking c---’ in a song” and actually doing it. Gonzalez’s love interest has cheated on him, and since she thinks she has the right to do that, he thinks he can do it right back, too. It’s difficult to concentrate after that off-putting pre-chorus.
32. “John Wayne” (Cigarettes After Sex)
From a third-person perspective, Gonzalez is watching a man fall deeply in love with a girl much younger than him — one he knows he can’t have but can’t help but pursue. Once the keys and guitar blend together seamlessly in the chorus, everything seems right in the world.
31. “Pure” (Cry)
Gonzalez and his partner are about to have sex, but he just wants to stare at her and take in all her beautiful features first. The subtle wire brushes on the drums won’t prepare you for the beauty of the chorus’ guitar that’ll inevitably make you ascend.
30. “Sing” (Romans 13:9)
You can’t listen to this and not hear The Smiths. Gonzalez doesn’t care about anything when he’s with his girl and, even though he finds it odd himself, he wants to keep it that way. That guitar just sounds like it’s the glue of a soft rock anthem.
29. “Keep On Loving You” (single)
“Keep On Loving You” sounds so much like a Cigarettes After Sex song that it’s mind-boggling to remember it’s actually a cover of Reo Speedwagon’s track. Gonzalez knows no matter who comes into the picture, he and his girlfriend are meant to be together forever. Gonzalez’s chillingly gorgeous vocals steal the show.
28. “Opera House” (Cigarettes After Sex)
The fluttering keys in the opening instrumental sounds perfect for a film score, cascading in when the love interest of the protagonist enters the room. No matter where Gonzalez goes, he can’t get this girl out of his head — because he knows he was meant to love her. It’s utterly beautiful all-around.
27. “You’re All I Want” (single)
If the title isn’t straightforward enough, Gonzalez feels such magic between his partner and him that he knows he’ll never want anyone other than her. The light buzz of the bass gives Gonzalez’s vocals that extra, much-needed kick.
26. “Hentai” (Cry)
Gonzalez has been waiting for a girl like the one he’s with right now — and he wants her to know that. The way the guitar and subtle keys merge together so well, it feels like the beginning of world peace.
25. “Run Towards Your Fear” (Romans 13:9)
Gonzalez is giving his girl the most solid advice he can: do things head-on, even when it’s scary, because what’s the point of living in fear forever? The drums and zipping acoustic guitar, on their own, are enough to rank this song this high.
24. “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” (I. EP)
Nothing is more relieving than hearing your lover tell you they’ll do anything to protect you — especially when it’s as convincing as Gonzalez is. The keys are nothing extraordinary, but they add so much to the already dreamlike vibe.
23. “You” (Romans 13:9)
Gonzalez is trying to put into words how this girl makes him feel, but he can’t. It sounds all jumbled because the way he feels when she’s around is inexplicable and otherworldly. The drummer didn’t have to go that hard for us, but he did.
22. “I’m A Firefighter” (I. EP)
Even though he’s watching the love fade, Gonzalez can’t help but long for his girlfriend’s touch forever. The drawn-out strums of the guitar add even more heartbreak, and Gonzalez’s tone is particularly desolate (yet worthwhile) after the third verse.
21. “I Can’t Stop These Tears from Falling” (Romans 13:9)
After Gonzalez’s girlfriend left him, he can’t see even an inch of happiness coming his way any time soon. Those drums are steady and perfect to tap your foot to, and that guitar line sounds like the perfect background music for a drive at sunset.
20. “Each Time You Fall In Love” (Cigarettes After Sex)
Even Gonzalez, the king of writing love songs, isn’t sure he’s even been completely content in a relationship — or if he’s ever really been in love. The consistent ring of the somber guitar is haunting, heart-shattering and sublime, all at once.
19. “You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life” (Cry)
Gonzalez knows he should be with someone he can see himself with for the long run, but his lust for her has gotten the best of him. She is satisfying his loneliness, which is unfortunately good enough for him for the time being. Prepare to transcend space and time because of those keys.
18. “Flash” (Cigarettes After Sex)
Their relationship is fluctuating, and Gonzalez suggests ending it before they get even more hurt, but it’s ultimately up to her. The way Gonzalez says “And you’ve gotta do the right thing, do the right thing, baby” will make you want to do the right thing, too.
17. “Crush” (single)
Ever had a best friend with whom you want to be more? Gonzalez certainly has. He daydreams often about his close friend, imagining what it would be like to kiss them and perhaps go even further, but he knows he won’t actually say anything. Gonzalez’s vocal tone in the chorus is everything.
16. “Heavenly” (Cry)
Gonzalez never feels more at home than he does with his significant other. Her lips, her skin, her touch are all his favorite things, and he can’t imagine what he’d do without them. The instrumental is atmospheric and strangely uplifting.
15. “Please Don’t Cry” (Romans 13:9)
This is seemingly the only time the repetition is warranted — because what Gonzalez is saying and how he’s saying it are both lovely. Gonzalez has to leave his lover for an untold amount of time, but he doesn’t want her to be sad. He’ll be back, and she should just think about that. The drums and almost distorted electric guitar fit perfectly behind the blatant emotion.
14. “Sesame Syrup” (single)
It’s hard to know what sesame syrup actually is, but knowing Gonzalez, it’s something sensual. Though his girlfriend has seemingly been with a lot of people, Gonzalez now knows he’s the only one she’s ever really been in love with, and he’s ecstatic. When everything slowly blends together in the chorus, it feels like pure bliss.
13. “Falling In Love” (Cry)
As Gonzalez and his girlfriend reminisce on how they fell in love, he realizes he can also see a future with her and plans on never letting her go. The instrumental break of ethereal guitars and atmospheric keys is as dreamy as they come.
12. “Our Last Day” (Romans 13:9)
Once the drums finally break through in the intro, it sets up a soft rock anthem for the ages. Even on Gonzalez’s dying breath, he hopes to be able to spend that time with her, cherishing her until he can’t anymore. The way Gonzalez says “our last day” at the end of the chorus is way too catchy.
11. “Neon Moon” (single)
Yes, Cigarettes After Sex can even make a country song sound dreamlike. This Brooks & Dunn cover shows Gonzalez sitting at a bar, staring at the neon signs and longing for his ex-lover to come back and have a drink with him. His irresistible tone steals the show.
10. “Truly” (Cigarettes After Sex)
Gonzalez is so vulnerable that he doesn’t even care if this girl doesn’t reciprocate his feelings for her. He feels so deeply for her that he’s fine with no-strings-attached sex. The chorus is its own euphoric world: his tone, the guitars that we don’t deserve, everything about it basically.
9. “Cry” (Cry)
Since Gonzalez has been so busy with touring and writing, he hasn’t been able to give his relationships the attention they deserve, which has hurt the other person involved. This is his straightforward apology to them. His tone is so airy and infectious.
8. “Apocalypse” (Cigarettes After Sex)
The band’s most popular song, “Apocalypse,” delineates the story of Gonzalez’s lover, who doesn’t want to join him in his urge to travel the world and be with him. He promises to be there whenever she needs him, though. Try the slowed version of this if you really want to get your feelings hurt.
7. “The Night Train” (Romans 13:9)
This is one of the only Cigarettes After Sex songs that can lift you out of a rough patch — while the others are more likely to throw you into a puddle of despair. Gonzalez plans on taking the next train out to see his significant other because he misses her too much. That cheery acoustic guitar is sure to produce wide smiles and utter happiness.
6. “Starry Eyes” (I. EP)
Move over, Roky Erickson. Cigarettes After Sex’s cover of “Starry Eyes” is just a little more worthwhile than your original. When Gonzalez looks at his girl, he sees the entire world — particularly her eyes that remind him of shining stars. The instrumentation is simple but flawless all-around.
5. “Kiss It Off Me” (Cry)
Gonzalez knows he’s not the type of guy this girl usually seeks out, but why couldn’t he be? He knows he could treat her better and make her feel on top of the world. The way the guitar dances around his vocals is beyond belief.
4. “Don’t Let Me Go” (Cry)
Though Gonzalez and this girl broke up seemingly years ago, the way she made him feel will never completely leave his mind. He still thinks about her and wants her, even though he knows she’s never coming back. It’s depressing, but the feelings evoked are so dreamy that it’s hard to remember you’re supposed to be sad listening to this.
3. “Sunsetz” (Cigarettes After Sex)
When his girlfriend isn’t there with him, Gonzalez feels incomplete and spends all his time yearning for her presence. That trickling electric guitar embodies what it’s like to find genuine love for the first time, and there isn’t a flaw in sight.
2. “K.” (Cigarettes After Sex)
During a temporary, no-strings-attached relationship with a girl named Kristen, Gonzalez went ahead and caught feelings for her. Now, he just wants her back so they can find more magic within one another. The guitars are comforting, but knowing the pain Gonzalez feels, they simultaneously hurt. There’s no doubt we all wish we were Kristen after hearing the kind of love Gonzalez promises her.
1. “Sweet” (Cigarettes After Sex)
Gonzalez knows he doesn’t have to constantly reassure his girl that he loves her because they show each other in everything they do. The keys are hypnotizing while his vocals and the guitars mix to create their own ethereal universe, far from the chaotic one we’re used to. This is truly what it feels like to be in love, and this track is fitting for a wedding playlist, background music for a night in, dancing with your significant other, or, really, any event you want. It suits everything.