Empress Of - Us

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Review Text While her earliest EPs took on a dreamier demeanor, Lorely Rodriguez's second album as Empress Of, Us, embraces the brisker tempos, syncopated percussiveness, and sense of spontaneity that she formulated on Me. Where it differs from the debut is in lyrics that are heartfelt but deliberately less personal than Me; its cover presents a full-color Rodriguez in an open posture as opposed to Me's black-and-white, reticent pose. Mostly self-produced and recorded, input from collaborators including Blood Orange's Dev Hynes, EDM duo DJDS, and Spanish producer Pional came later in the recording process. The bulk of the track list consists of generally sweet, danceable love songs. Exceptions include the playful rant of "I Don't Even Smoke Weed" ("It gives me anxiety"), with its vibrant, anthemic keyboard hooks, and the more confrontational "All for Nothing," which features clanging, cowbell-type timbres and rumbling synth bass. Elsewhere, the regretful "When I'm with Him" focuses on Rodriguez's upper range and a steadily percolating drum pattern. Hynes appears on the opening track, "Everything to Me," a spare, stylized duet that includes a spoken word bridge in addition to harmonies by Hynes. It's a charming introduction to a set that still finds an approachable balance between confidence and self-doubt as well as between D.I.Y. indie electronica and pop. ~ Marcy Donelson

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