In glaive’s overwhelming pop songs, every setback feels like the end of the world. The narrators of the 18-year-old singer-songwriter’s music are desperate and distressed, living life at the end of their rope while detailing commonplace problems like romantic dissolution, small-town loneliness, and adolescent rage. It’s how the world appears when you’re young, still finding your place, falling in and out of love; each second is saturated with intense meaning. glaive captures this surfeit of feeling with conviction and unselfconsciousness on his debut full-length, the title of which, i care so much that i dont care at all, sums up his whole approach. He feels every moment with the wide-eyed wonder of someone who’s learning what it means to be a person: rapturously, sincerely, despairingly.

Like many kids stuck at home in 2020, the artist born Ash Gutierrez, then 15, started making songs in his bedroom with help from friends he met on the internet. His bruised ballads resonated, and songs like the fragile “Astrid” quickly became important texts for a new generation of always-online pop musicians and fans. From his earliest, overstuffed productions, which recalled several generations of internet music at once—distorted emo rap, Drain Gang’s heavy-lidded pop euphoria, the Adderall-addled club music brewing on SoundCloud in the wake of PC Music—he demonstrated a knack for making songs whose unstable sonics echoed the unsteady feelings in his lyrics. Swooning, glitch-scoured singles like “Pissed” sounded like they might collapse in on themselves in a pile of digital detritus.

These experiments led glaive—along with fellow pop mutants brakence and ericdoa—to be lumped into the then-nascent scenes of hyperpop and digicore. But there was “nothing hyper” about much of his music, he told The New York Times in 2020. In the years since, he has signaled his increasing interest in making pop songs without glitches or distortion. He tried recording simpler songs on transitional works like the 2021 EP all dogs go to heaven and then i’ll be happy, a collaboration with ericdoa. But i care so much that i don’t care at all is the first time that he sounds truly comfortable making more straightforward and decidedly less “hyper” pop songs. The ease with which he spins up sugar-rushing harmonies on songs like “the prom” is evidence of a songwriter with a deft knowledge of the pop toolkit. And the clarity and confidence of his arrangements in turn allow him to express deeper, more complex emotions. Every lightning bolt of teenaged revelation strikes even more precisely.

“the car,” for example, is built around an uncomplicated arrangement that recalls several decades’ worth of guitar-led pop, from Ric Ocasek’s emotional anthems to Third Eye Blind’s blurry dramas to the brittle edge of mid-’00s radio emo. But it also shows a songwriter willing to navigate confusing headspaces, bitterly spitting out a story about infidelity, substance abuse, and broken promises. glaive even spares a moment of tenderness for a man who, until that moment, seemed to be the song’s villain. “I’d be lying to your face if I said I didn’t feel for him,” he sings. “He’s doing way more than I did for ya.” He demonstrates a new comfort in unpacking complicated emotions—which he does especially impressively on lead single “as if,” a gnarled song about trying to leave behind old friends while not quite being able to let them go, a cutting sentiment for anyone who’s ever forged a relationship out of convenience.

Aided by a host of producers and songwriters—including returning collaborators Jeff Hazin and Ralph Castelli, as well as fellow moody songwriters like Alexander 23 and underscores—i care so much that i dont care at all gleams with an unprecedented polish. Together glaive and his collaborators favor grand gestures (vocal harmonies stacked heavenward, dramatic stop-start dynamics, samples of Timothée Chalamet monologues) that suit the bleeding-heart songwriting and mile-a-minute delivery. Straining at the limits of his upper range, he crams every yelped line full of stray thoughts and syllables.

But some moments feel naive or overly simplistic. One notable misstep is “all i do is try my best,” in which he contemplates killing himself upon learning how much he owes on his taxes. That tossed-off admission is an uneasy—and glib—echo of the record’s opener, “oh are you bipolar one or two?,” in which he unpacks suicidal ideation in more vivid, and chilling, detail. He sings of the touch of “metal to skin,” and takes a deep look at his emotional volatility—an empathetic and surprisingly mature sentiment in a song that opens with him grabbing a gun and writing a note to all his friends and family. It’s dramatic, no doubt, but affecting. At its best, i care so much that i dont care at all captures the ecstatic, uncomfortable intensity of the joy and turmoil of being young. And if it ever feels awkward or fumbling, well, that’s an essential part of being a teenager too.

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glaive: i care so much that i dont care at all