Empress Of is great. She’s New York based Lorely Rodriguez and she makes synth-pop that is without the painting of nu-R&B or techno affects. Her sound isn’t something you could easily thrust into a trend: she instead stands in between homespun dancescapes and lonely singer/songerwritters.
Her debut album Me comes after two singles in the past three years, the initial Champagne and Systems. These first two releases are nice but are missing a bundling magic, that edge and snappiness that can coalesces an artist’s point of view. Me does that very easily. It’s catchy as fuck.
Dwelling in a lighter—but extremely similar territory—to girl power pop electricians like Austra, Zola Jesus, Bat For Lashes and Young Ejecta, Me is an album about putting yourself in the middle of it all. It’s about confronting others, be it a specific person or sound experiments that aren’t ever crazy in their newness but are interesting ways to talk about mid-twenties struggles like personal fulfillment and infatuation. Songs like “Everything Is You” and “How Do You Do It” are strong—almost aggressive—pop songs about balancing yourself out in a relationship.
Her songs on this release are at a constant break: they’re decidedly not sexy in their content but reactions to another person as it relates to the self. The music tends to be in both a rough dream state, as if always about to scream or float away on a high or low synth note. “To Get By” is the manifestation, as it contemplates how to live intentionally or not without another person—even if that means getting high. “Standard” is the jammingest, obvious R&B relatable song about self-elevation set to heavy handed chords and bubbling backup beats. “Kitty Kat” is Me‘s biggest treasure and E.O.’s personal thesis of being strong, of being a woman in charge, of not being taken advantage of. Lyrics like “If I was a man, would you still do the same?” and “Don’t kitty, kitty cat me like I’m just your pussy.” show off her skill with words, which is easy to forget since everything sounds so damned good. “Kitty Kat” rockets itself into your brain with its necessarily banged synth keys.
The album is the lost sequel to fellow New York based synth-popper Class Actress‘ debut Rapprocher. E.O. is a simultaneously tougher and daintier Jessy Lanza. Yet, the one thing I see most from her words and music is that same umph and power Roisin Murphy had in her solo debut Ruby Blue. She is certainly in excellent company with fellow strong female electronic vocalists and she arguably does more than most of them have accomplished in years in only a 34 minute earworming run. This is quite a debut. It is a confident statement of the self.