Best of 2018

Fu­ture Pop | Metal Ex­per­i­ments

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY IAN GORMELY

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.

KING PRINCESS

TROYE SI­VAN

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