Over the summer, I found myself at Hammerstein Ballroom surrounded by more than 2,000 ecstatic Vocaloid fans, each equipped with a color-changing wand (something between a lightsaber and those conical lights that ground control uses to direct runway traffic at airports). Without much warning, the crowd would sync up their movements in spontaneous choreography along … More »
For once, Vince Staples wasn’t sure what to say. Five days after dropping another incredible collection of songs, the Long Beach rapper and reigning Twitter MVP logged into his account and wrote, “I was about to tell y’all FM! not an album but I don’t even know what an album is anymore so … More »
It’s finally here: the perfect non-denominational holiday present for the TMT reader in your life who has everything…except the things that haven’t come out yet!
C’mon, you already know what I’m talking about: SOPHIE’s mind-splattering masterpiece album OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES is getting a limited edition vinyl release at long last!
If you don’t own a computer or cellular telephonic device and haven’t yet heard SOPHIE’s angelic/sputtering/graceful/anarchic debut album, then 1) I’m not sure how you’re reading this — but also: 2) all you need to know is that it’s a part of the Tiny Mix Tapes Essentials line of albums…which doesn’t exist, but it is in our 2018: Second Quarter Favorites feature, and — I’m going to go over a few people’s heads when I say this — it would HONESTLY have been on a list regardless of the quarter in which it came out!
The new release comes on extra-special red vinyl from Transgressive Records, and it drops December 7. That said, you can pre-order it right here, right now! Oh man, I love a good vinyling. Enjoy your subversive future-pop with analog sound!
Brooklyn Steel; Brooklyn, NY
I stared into my closet. I’m not one to obsess over outfits or looks. My style skews toward the “jeans and band-shirt” aesthetic of my indie rock and punk forebearers. I examined my black nail-polish: my right hand adorned with silver glitter and my left subtly infused with rainbow sparkle only visible at the right angle and in the right light. My polishes are gifts from my friend Terry, a way in which I have them close even when I fail to be in touch.
I first painted my nails the summer before my senior year. Having never worn makeup, I was hesitant, but embraced the opportunity when a friend from the summer program I was attending offered. I kept the polish only for a few days, washing it off upon returning home and sensing my parents’ confusion. Standing in the bathroom, hands dripping with remover, I thought very little of the act.
SOPHIE’s insurrectionary energy has challenged the stagnancy of pop and electronic. Embracing glamour, SOPHIE charts a course for elegant experimentation, one in which the headiness of atonal synth lines and body-stretching rhythms seamlessly coexist with the club’s sweaty sexuality. Throughout queer twitter, SOPHIE’s music serves as the aesthetic complement to challenged identities and self-experimentation.
SOPHIE makes things weird. Her collaborative EP with Charli XCX, Vroom Vroom, offers a vision of pop music unrestrained by Spotify’s sameness algorithm. Her production on Vince Staples’s “Yeah Right” pushes explosive bass to the disintegrating limits while layering warped noise into an encompassing banger. On OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, the sandwiching of a potential pop classic “Immaterial” between the sublime drone “Pretending” and the dystopian “Whole New World/Pretend World” demonstrates a curatorial boldness.
These over-activated adjectives are just to say SOPHIE is pushing Music forward through offering a space for experimentation.
Against this background of eclecticism, SOPHIE’s performance at Brooklyn Steel feels confused. Standing in the crowd, the energy of anticipation coursed through the room before SOPHIE took the stage. SOPHIE is a star, her adoring fans waiting to lick her boot.
Or, at least, this is the kinky affection tracks like “Ponyboy” would imply. In practice, there is a much different energy that pervaded the SOPHIE show. As she descended from an enmeshed VIP section, the crowd exploded with excitement. Wearing a gorgeous dress, SOPHIE confronted the audience and began her set.
She ran through house and pop, injecting the level of experimentation one would expect. From the VIP section, predominately white models danced, cultivating an aura of exclusivity and a concern about who is excluded. The predominately white audience absorbed SOPHIE’s tropically inflected hits, dancing to the songs and remixes she provided. A sea of white skin — myself a small drop — this current of whiteness, the overprivileged and overindulgent beneficiaries of the black pioneers of Detroit house and techno.
It is marvelous that “Ponyboy” elicits such a sense of glee within the crowd. The jagged song punishes its listeners as bodies collide on the chaotic dance floor. The success of “Ponyboy” exposes a larger issue within SOPHIE’s performance. Her sonic eclecticism can be read as embracing clashing aesthetics, or it can be read as uncertain. In her noisy musing, SOPHIE masterfully subverts audience expectation. As Snapchat and IG stories grasp at these moments, their operators await a drop that never comes. SOPHIE utilizes noise to undercut the club’s continuity, opening up a space beyond dance’s immediate pleasure.
The issue emerges in the unfinished juxtaposition of styles. These sweeping drones and harsh detours never fully integrate with the pop-informed moments led by the MCs that float in and out of her performance. The high-glamour models draw from the iconography of elite party culture, but SOPHIE seems unsure if she wants to embrace or undercut these images. Sonically, this amounts to a strange back and forth between throttling abstraction and pop decadence. Unlike the transition from “Pretending” to “Immaterial” to “Whole New World/Pretend World” on the album, the live seesaw between experimentation and pop fails to overtake the masses. While the crowd exploded during “Immaterial,” exploratory moments of harshness elicited confusion and rustling in my immediate vicinity. These sections were filled with flasks and contorted nostrils, as the energetic party reached the part of the night where your friend delivers their treatise on POWER and SOCIETY. In SOPHIE’s case, her closing words before leaving the stage (before her encore) echoed this sentiment, as she remarked through a clipping microphone, “I don’t like governments or religions that oppress people, but I love all of you.”
Back at my closet earlier in the day, the embarrassing question that floated through my mind was, “How do I dress gay enough for this show?” I discovered my bisexuality later in life, this year at 23, and I still struggle with how to embrace myself. I looked through my closet to figure out how to present in a way that communicated how important SOPHIE was for my self-understanding. From the stan SOPHIE twitter that exposed me to more of gay twitter to the self-acceptance and love of “It’s Okay to Cry,” SOPHIE has offered me pathways to better understand myself. Moreover, as someone who thoroughly enjoys experimental and harsh music, I love SOPHIE’s boldness in genre hopping.
My closet and SOPHIE’s performance both embody an indecisiveness about identity. For me, it took those moments of standing in front of my wardrobe to realize the ludicrousness of the question, that anything I would wear would be “gay enough,” because that is part of me. I may not perform a specific type of gay masculinity, but I don’t have to to be who I am. In the case of SOPHIE’s performance, she seemed unable to decide if she wanted to be a pop star or an experimental provocateur. Certainly, there is a path forward that synthesizes the two, but last night reflected a conflict within her talent. Able to pull off everything, SOPHIE refused to decide what to be.
There is an immense amount of power within this refusal. As so many artists succumb to one current or another, SOPHIE represents a singular artist in this moment. My disappointment in this performance will not take away from my respect for her work. But the more powerful moment for me occurred in her DJ set at Elsewhere in Brooklyn on February 8. In the middle of a lively set, SOPHIE dropped “Pretending,” letting the entire song reverberate through the venue. While some began chatting, by and large, the crowd didn’t wait with their phones poised for the drop. They let the music wash over them, patiently allowing SOPHIE to rearrange their minds before transitioning to warped techno.
Such a moment of openness was not allowed to breathe at Brooklyn Steel. Instead, the impatience of the party overtook the mood. It is lovely to be swept up in the moment, but SOPHIE has the potential to complicate our desire to be swept up, to show the contradictions embedded within our passions. In this performance, SOPHIE admired the surface. I wish she had plunged us all in headfirst.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that I’ve played SOPHIE’s “Is It Cold in the Water?” almost every day since the song revealed itself; the centerpiece of OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES restores my faith in the proposition that one can still employ traditional songwriting techniques in the service of creativity and change. On an album whose strengths rely so strongly on mood, sound design, and the empowering ideals the music lives and breathes, “Is It Cold in the Water?” manages to sneak in a classically-harmonized ecstasy of tension-building cadences and daring melodic leaps, and still somehow sound fresh and not at all out-of-place. If you’re still at all skeptical about the genius of SOPHIE’s full-length debut, give its epic fourth track another listen.
OR, if you’d like to check it out in a more personal way, say with SOPHIE standing right there in a big dark room in front of you, you too are in luck: in addition to to her North American mini-tour we posted about a few weeks back, SOPHIE will be performing in several European cities (and Tel Aviv, Israel) this October. See the full itinerary below:
10.12.18 – Krakow, Poland – Unsound Festival
10.13.18 – Oslo, Norway – Roverstaden
10.14.18 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
10.15.18 – Stockholm, Sweden – Backdoor
10.17.18 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Paradiso Noord
10.19.18 – Manchester, UK – Soup Kitchen
10.20.18 – Liverpool, UK – 24 Kitchen Street
10.23.18 – London, UK – Fabric
10.27.18 – Antwerp, Belgium – Faded Weekender
10.30.18 – Tel Aviv, Israel – Barby Club
Montreal might be the only place in the world I would consider moving to without visiting first. Long, freezing-ass winters, a shady history of questionable Catholic practices, and a three hundred-year-old fort smack dab in the middle of it: no other living-situation prospect warms the nostalgic heart of a Polish expat in North America more.
Plus, the lineup of this year’s POP Montreal, the 17th edition of the city’s non-profit multidisciplinary festival, is looking pretty damn sick; even more so with the recent unveiling of several exciting names as part of the last wave of announcements.
The eclectic final round of programming includes TMT-fav producer SOPHIE, veteran rockabilly-crossover singer Wanda Jackson, Chicago dirty rap sensation CupcakKe, and also a band my older brother likes called Wolf Parade. (Bill Callahan, Zola Jesus, U.S. Girls, and JPEGMAFIA were also added to the bill, to the great joy of thousands of people who know how to use the verb pogner in a sentence.)
Besides music, the extended POP Montreal weekend will feature film screenings (including documentaries about Betty Davies, Lena Platanos, and Joan Jett), assorted talks, panels, workshops, a contemporary art section, an artisinal fair, and even activities for kids.
The summer of Charli XCX continues. She’s expressed plans to release a new single every month ’til at least October, and the fruits of that plan have been great so far. We got “5 In The Morning” in May and both “Focus” and “No Angel” in June, and today Charli’s unleashing her latest … More »
SOPHIE released her debut album, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, earlier this year in June, to widespread critical acclaim. Since the record’s release, she’s been looking forward to new music, including a confirmed collaboration with Lady Gaga. In a recent interview with Spanish-language media outlet Mondosonoro, the Scottish singer/songwriter and producer said she has enough music to release – count it – three more long form releases, all of which she hopes to deliver sometime in 2018. But as to whether they’ll be albums or EPs, SOPHIE elaborates,
“A mix. I do not know what a damn album is! The barrier between the EP and the LP is becoming more diffuse, that’s why I can not define it. It is not something that I care about. It will be four releases. This is what I want to do right now.”
SOPHIE is perhaps on one of the most prolific streaks of her career thus far, hot off the heels of a collaboration with GAIKA, “Immigrant Sons (Pesos & Gas).” Beyond that, in an interview with Lenny Letter , SOPHIE also reveals to have work with Bibi Bourelly, Charli XCX, and more on the way.