The road to Lupa J’s first full album has been a good five years of evolution over several very impressive EPs. Over that time the initial cello-looping alt-pop beginnings have steered towards dirtier cyberpunk electronica. ‘Swallow Me Whole’ is forward facing but remembers Lupa J’s past too as synths replace cellos for easily one of the best goth pop album of 2019 by far.
‘Drift’ is a perfect representation of what I mean. The thick synths are brash and gurgling basslines give a gravel undertone to the choruses. Lupa J’s lyrics throughout the album are of a love awakened, smashed but confidently signed on the dotted line for and they come thick and fast. However, when the solemn instrumental dance sections come in the gentler slow motion side reminds me of a plucked cello. Often during this album, the ways the synths are arranged have a fluidity to them that you can feel a string player has arranged them. It’s cool to see the transformation. ‘The Crash’ is an absolutely storming track of arpeggios, heady lyrics, huge beats and a production that is designed to feel like a slow-motion death glide with the party culture. You’ll have it on repeat when travelling I promise.
With all not being well tonally throughout the album, Lupa J uses distortion and discord to perfection across several songs. ‘Comfort in Numbers’ has a central glitch synth as its main thrust and it is slightly layered off key to destabilise you. As the track builds up other industrial buzzes and cyber spasms zap in to continue to throw you off balance. The sound amounts to chaos and when paired with Lupa J’s (Imogen Jones) superbly emotive voice, everything feels visceral. A lot of vocoder tricks are used throughout the album and often they are used to add chaos. Here they are comforting in an evil way. ‘Dream’ gives us a gentle comedown solace before the bitterly honest ‘Woman’ brings us an uprising message. Lupa J spends the track building up sonically and lyrically to the declarative chorus ‘I love you more than anyone. I see there’s nothing really wrong – the woman inside me wants to love a woman’. Its confident clarity and speed bring a rousing smile to the listener in what is a dark album.
‘You’re In My Headphones’ has a phat throwback to the ’90s with chunky synth chords and rubbery bass lines. It’s the radio-friendly track to use as a good intro point from the pop side of new listeners. ‘Safe Here’ is much slinkier and reminds me of some of Lydmor’s work from her 2018 album ‘I Told You I’d Tell You Our Story’. It has that light night back alley club vibe, which ‘(Roadkill)’ excels in too for its first half. Lupa J then veers off into industrial cyberpunk instrumental mantras that remind me of Imogen Heap’s iMegaphone b-side work. It is all to calm you down before the goth dancefest of the title track. ‘Swallow Me Whole’ is an angry, visceral, discharging electrical funnel that has some beautifully dark moments. It’s gothic mechanical groans and moans take the best of Zola Jesus and Chelsea Wolfe and throw them fully onto the dance floor. Audibly the track feels like I’ve been consumed by a machine and churned out as nondescript data.
‘Pull Me Under’ is a pop anthem in waiting. It is exceptionally catchy and like many tracks here could find itself on heavy rotation on the radio, the club circuit or alternative stations. The album now reaching its final convulsions reaches the baby night light of ‘A Million Others’. It’s warm and safe organs and plinks hide some of the saddest lyrics on the whole album. Sometimes nothing feels worse than being utterly indistinguishable. Who are you then? I feel like much of this album talks of self-identity and this track is the 1-2 punch that you could use as the angst to pick yourself up. That helps transition to the closing track ‘Walk Home’ which feels like a cyber-symphonic version of dusting yourself off and walking away. It is a fitting finale for such an emotionally turbulent album.
If there is such a thing as being a fabulous glitter goth then Lupa J is just that. ‘Swallow Me Whole’ is crammed from start to finish with anthem after anthem for those that shine brightest in the dark. Quite possibly my album of the year has already been decided.
Recommended track: The Crash
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