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Empress Of ‘Me’ – Album Review

XL (2015)

Formerly of Brooklyn art rockers Celestial Shore, Honduras-American talent Lorely Rodriguez, aka Empress Of, now cements her transition into full-blown synth-pop songstress with her first full-length solo effort, Me.

As its simple title suggests, the self-produced ten-track collection is a highly autobiographical affair which deals with everything from the financial difficulties of living in a gentrified city (“Standard”) to Rodriguez’s carnal desires (“How Do You Do It?”) in a manner far more candid than most of her ice queen peers.

Empress Of’s vocal talents are arguably even more impressive than her distinctive way with words, with the swooping melodies of sparse alt-pop opener “Everything Is You” just one of many occasions in which she appears to be channelling vintage Kate Bush, while there are even echoes of Mariah Carey’s glass-shattering range on the lustful “Make Up.”

The latter’s playful but warped house sound is the default setting for much of Me, with the likes of “Threat” and “Water Water” pursuing a similar blend of clubby beats and skewed synths. But the record is far more effective when the production matches the more daring nature of its lyrics.

Closing track “Icon” is an inspired alternative lullaby which sees Rodriguez address her heartbreak-fuelled insomnia against a sparse backdrop of finger-clicking beats and creepy synth-bass lines, while “Kitty Kat” sees her dismiss a cat-calling lover over a nightmarish electro soundscape which could be mistaken for the now-defunct Crystal Castles.

Like her XL labelmate FKA twigs’ debut, Me lacks the kind of solid hooks that would help Empress Of’s cult stardom translate into significant record sales. But it’s still a highly impressive one-woman show which suggests this is just the start of things to come.

3 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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