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.