Best of 2018
Future Pop | Metal Experiments
T HE PAST 12 MONTHS HAVE BEEN A BANNER YEAR FOR FORWARD-THINKING POP MUSIC.
Taking cues from Charli XCX and Robyn, a new generation of artists are trying on new sounds and aesthetics that push the boundaries of what pop music sounds and looks like.
TROYE SIVAN Bloom ( CAPITOL)
Queer pop idols are nothing new, but for most, their sexuality has been implicit. Not so for Troye Sivan; the Australian singer makes his queerness explicit on sophomore record Bloom. This pivot made Sivan the subject of many thinkpieces, none of which would hold up if it weren’t for the music, which ranges from shimmering modern dance pop to acoustic ballads. Not a queer artist making music — an artist making music from a decidedly queer point of view.
SOPHIE Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides ( TRANSGRESSIVE)
Robyn famously said that “fembots have feelings too,” a claim that SOPHIE has taken as a challenge. She’s been making forward-thinking pop for a few years now, but Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides marked a turn for the transgender producer. She sheds her hyperkinetic, AI-generated aesthetic and for the first time on “It’s Okay to Cry,” even uses her own voice, unadorned. The result embraces the disorienting digital future, but grounds it with real human emotion.
KING PRINCESS Make My Bed ( ZELIG)
Everything about King Princess seems effortless — from the woozy aesthetic of her debut EP to her stunning rise, helped by early co-signs by Harry Styles and Mark Ronson, the 19-year old artist, born Mikaela Straus, makes everything look so damn easy. Baked into what, on the surface, feels like lo-fi bedroom pop, is a stunningly unceremonious presentation of her sexuality that feels as radical as any fiery rallying cry. But Straus’s casual air, wise-beyond-her-years lyrics and dense, pristine production reveals a singular talent.
TIRZAH Devotion ( DOMINO)
Tirzah Mastin has seen pop’s future, and it’s not on the dance floor — it’s in the lineup outside, in the corners of the back alley and between the sheets in early morning hours. Helping Mastin shape this vision is Mica Levi, known for both her film score work and her own forwardthinking pop project, Micachu and the Shapes. Together they forge a sound that’s at once dark and foreboding, overlaid with unguarded intimacy. It’s late-night bedroom pop that knows how to groove.
EMPRESS OF Us ( TERRIBLE)
There’s a tendency in pop to go big: big beats, big drops and a big, universal world view. But on her sophomore record, Us, Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez), uses the form as a bait and switch. Impeccable production from Blood Orange and DJ Dodger Stadium pulls listeners in, but once hooked, they’re confronted with a world that’s surprisingly intimate and specific to Rodriguez’s Latin-American upbringing in L.A. Sometimes inclusion is less about building one big tent and more about making space for all the little tents.