Russell Louder's 'Humor' Is a Masterclass in Powerful Pop Vocals

Russell Louder's 'Humor' Is a Masterclass in Powerful Pop Vocals
Russell Louder has been releasing singles since 2018, meaning that their debut full-length functions as something of an overview of the project's last few years. But even if Humor is a grab bag of past singles and new tracks, it mostly holds together as a cohesive statement, blending brash, thumping synthpop with belted vocals reminiscent of Florence + the Machine or Austra.

With throbbing dance rhythms and audacious synth patches, a lesser vocalist could easily get overpowered by these arrangements. Opener "Home" begins the album with buzzing bass octaves and a giant-sized keyboard riff that is initially reminiscent of industrial music — but instead of aggression, Russell's powerful presence pulls the track in the direction of pure dance pop.

The sets the tone for an album that's all about Russell's powerful singing. A press release notes that the Montreal-based artist was influenced by the the folk storytelling of their PEI upbringing — but even though these songs touch on themes like grief and self-identity, Humor largely conveys emotion through delivery rather than lyrics. "Vow" sets dreamy, melancholic melodies against an urgent dance pulse, while the deft delivery of "Hello Stranger" gives a sense of intimacy to its cathartic club rhythm.

The album takes a surprising turn in its last couple of tracks — "Lavender" combines rustic folk guitars with the usual synth textures, while abstract closer "Go Now" is a raw acoustic recording run through cavernous reverb. It's a curious finale, but it reaffirms what we now know about Russell Louder: that they're a vocalist with enough presence to make anything sound like their own. (Lisbon Lux)