For the past few years, there’s been a breakout EP from a new, DIY female electronic artist that charms the entire dance scene and inspires a new dialogue about creating music.
In 2017, it was Coucou Chloe and her Erika Jane EP, a little release that stood in between a beat heavy dancefloor jamming and abstract alien pop. In 2016, it was ABRA with her retro leaning Princess that appropriately tapped into 1996 with salty love songs. There has been variations of this breakout star theory – 2015 felt like Annie’s rebirth via Endless Vacation; 2014 saw PC Music crest with bubblegummy Hannah Diamond; 2013 provided the dawn of Empress Of – but the history is there, if you squint to find an other world “Best New Artist” competition.
In 2018, the contender has presented herself very early: Negative Gemini and her Bad Baby EP. Gemini (AKA, Lindsey French) is a Brooklyn based musician who is crafting music that is at the intersection of early 2000s trip-hop, bedroom shoegaze, neo-1990s club revivalism, and a crashing Tumblr page. Her work is simultaneously appealing in an accessible way but challenging in that it often doesn’t leave you smitten on initial listen but invites you back and back and back until you can hear what’s actually going on with each individual song before unlocking what is happening across the six song EP.
She sets this up with the gauzy “Infin Path” which feels like a twitching drum kit flying through the sky as French wanders between the intellectual highs of love (“I feel lightly”) before breaking into more confrontational sexual tension (“I’ve been thinking bout you”), the latter of which comes with a breaks oriented switch up from near ambience to back arching beats. These juxtapositions that French plays with is her wheelhouse, where she excels. “Bad Baby” – both the original edit and “Club Mix” – provide this duality: the original song is a cloudy rock song featuring French’s coos-to-wails about the tension of wanting someone to lie to you whereas the “Club Mix” buries the vocal performance in a tribal La Bouche dance. Songs like “Skydiver” and “My Innocence” have French’s genre-smashing touching the rockier edges, going more for vocal performance instead of producerly theatrics.
Then there’s “You Weren’t There Anymore,” the EP’s beating heart, which balances desires for these digital and analogue extremes. The song imagines shoegaze through synthpop and, as Pitchfork says, lets French’s “Balearic Britney Spears”-ness manifest most vividly. The song is about that tension between a person experiencing something as magical while the person you’re with doesn’t see it as much of anything. With her gentlest voice, French sings this to you over rough dream pop that fills your ears with so much sexual frustrations that you want to send her a card to tell her it’s all going to be alright. The song, like the album, illustrates that French is the closest thing we will get to a reimagining of Cyndi Lauper.
It’s this vividness that makes Bad Baby so successful. The release is also so vulnerable, like it’s almost entirely whispered into your ear, in confidence. It’s so lovely and, while I hate personal double coverage of works, I started listening to the EP last week and feel like it keeps unfolding and unfolding to teach me about artistic process and wanting to be “bad” when you’re supposed to be good. It’s a very tight listen, one that we – Or, at least, I. – will pin to 2018 as an example of the self-reliance and self-defiance that we need to push through these shit times.