Empress Of – Me
Me is a hard album to pin down. It’s a mix between straightforward dance music and dream pop, with the dream pop part being the unsettling sounds that seem to roil and lurk beneath the surface of the sharp-edged synth chunking and twittering arpeggios. At first blush it feels like FKA Twigs without taking chances, or The Knife without the sense of glamour-noir. It’s aiming for art, but is it artsy enough to get that far? From the beginning it goes like this: I want to say no, that this is a case of Lorely Rodriguez putting together a subtle pastiche of a decade of popular undercurrents in pop, but then the next song will have me reversing the position and proclaiming that this is sensational, an electric mixture of art and pop that pushes the sounds of the dancefloor forward even while it anchors you to shaking in a particular groove. Then the next song will have me back at my original position. It goes like this, back and forth, never resolving even at the end. Is this a good album, or does it merely put up a convincing facade of being good? Is this a potemkin record?
I’m left without answers, and in the end I have to conclude that it is, in the final reckoning, a good album. Not a great album, or even a particularly original album, but a good album. If Ms. Rodriguez kept the continuous party beat behind every song as she does on “Water Water” and “How Do You Do It”, it would transcend being merely good into something ethereal. It’s the sub-Twigs modern R&B feel of tracks like “Everything Is You” and “To Get By” that really bring the album down from being a slice of dancefloor perfection. It’s the art-disco throb that makes Empress Of great, and as such Me would be much better suited as an EP with the mid-tempo stuff deleted.