Published Jun 19, 2018Modern pop music is rife with ultra-clear production and the most earwormy melodies and choruses. There are, however, certain artists who take the central tenets of pop music and subsequently push, warp and utterly mangle them into only referential recognition. If Oneohtrix Point Never's impression is heady and measured, SOPHIE's is an uninhibited dopamine rush. Bubblegum pop at its most extreme, SOPHIE pushes every moment of adolescent innocence into the realms of naïveté, and every moment of innuendo into hyper-sexualized raunch.
Newly featured on Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides is SOPHIE's singing; that's not to say there haven't been vocal performances in much of the artist's previous work, but rather that this time SOPHIE has opted to put her own performances in the spotlight. "It's Okay To Cry" puts her (and her voice) front and centre, showing an aptitude for balladry that no one would've guessed was in her repertoire until this point. Although the performance isn't technically extraordinary, it is compelling, especially at the anthemic conclusion.
Things take a turn quite quickly, however; if the first track was hopeful and considered, "Ponyboy" is a stark detour into a debauchery-addled dungeon. SOPHIE's razor-sharp production throttles underneath a (very) thinly veiled BDSM allegory, which might put some listeners on edge. "Faceshopping," the most intricate track of the project, continues in a similarly sinister vein, and it's fantastic. Not only is this some of SOPHIE's best-ever production, but it's also her most clever lyrical effort. "My face is the front of shop / My face is the real shop front / My shop is the face I front / I'm real when I shop my face."
Of course, there are the pop homages that run closer to well-established tendencies. Nonetheless, they always possess the SOPHIE quirk that gives the tracks their identity. "Is It Cold In the Water?" is the first of these, with EDM-tinged arpeggiation accompanied by a soaring vocal performance. "Infatuation" is one of the most affecting moments of the album, relying heavily on emotional chords and melodies to great effect. "Immaterial" is infectious dance-pop at its finest, full of bounce and gleeful repetition.
As much as SOPHIE's music is already a curveball, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides still has some totally new direction from the artist. "Pretending" is ambient-electronica performed to grandeur and poise, similar to something you might find from a label like Northern Electronics. Indeed, this approach appears again on the concluding track, "Whole New World / Pretend World," which initially begins as an aggressive ode to the rave sounds of yesteryear, but ends on SOPHIE's newly established penchant for ambient, concluding the project effectively.
For all the praise that could be heaped on the bulk of SOPHIE's output, the best that comes to mind is that it sounds like no one else could have made Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides. This is the kind of music that, in 20 years, we may look back on as a pivotal point in changing the trajectory of the pop music sound. With artists like Charlie XCX and Madonna already in on the tip, it might be in all of our best interests to get up to speed. (Transgressive)