Empress Of Me

Empress Of Me
8
When Lorely Rodriguez started posting Colorminutes, a series of minute-long musical compositions, to YouTube a few years ago under the name Empress Of, she wanted them to be heard with as little context as possible. She attached no picture or information about herself; the songs were simply titled "1" through "15," and featured only a block of colour as artwork. Now, following a couple of successful EPs and increased exposure, Rodriguez's debut full-length arrives with her image on the cover and an even more telling title: Me.
 
Self-produced and written almost entirely while isolated in a lake house outside of Mexico City, Me is Rodriguez' most fully-formed artistic statement yet, an intensely personal, self-assured outing that cements her as a powerhouse producer, sonically harkening back to her Colorminutes days and establishing her as an expert songwriter. She demonstrates her versatility early on the opening one-two of "Everything is You" and "Water Water": the former is a sparse and snapping ode to new love, buoyed by hi-hat rolls and cooed gently in her lilting alto; the latter is a pulsing, reverb-splashed anthem about the privilege of having access to clean drinking water with a hooky bridge that shifts keys almost imperceptibly.
 
Lyrically, Rodriguez deftly mixes the personal and the political on Me, turning songs of self-love and -sufficiency into universal odes. "Need Myself" reaffirms that Rodriguez doesn't need anybody else, especially after a toxic relationship; "Kitty Kat" is a crushing, heavy synth response to being catcalled with a chorus that demands respect and firmly demands her freedom as she repeats in the chorus, "Let me walk away." It's subject matter that feels pulled from the pages of Rodriguez's reportedly many diaries, but it rings just as truly on a more universal scale.
 
That the songs are produced with such vivacity — "How Do You Do It" is a stuttering dance floor-filler, while closer "Icon" somehow feels intimate and huge at the same time courtesy of ticking percussion and walls of synth noise — only makes the messages hit harder and the songs stay with the listener longer. Me is a formidable debut.
  (XL/Terrible Records)