If St Vincent made more memes and less guitars.
Alex Lilly has a wicked sense of humour. Her lyrics across ‘2% Milk’ are some of the best of the year and they often raise a wry smile as you pop away to the weird pop that Alex creates. Much like how St Vincent has carved out a niche for herself making spasmodic pop-rock and Olga Bell has done the same with unusual electronica/pop hybrids – Alex Lilly comes from the same school. Everything here could be called pop but you’d be missing the entire point. Nothing about this is mainstream yet everything is catchy as hell.
Take ‘Night Drive’ for example. A skipping beat, heavy drums, poppy synths and yet the vocals are a back and forth between some demonic taxi driver and Alex herself – complete with vocal effects. Oh, and the bridge is a funky seaside organ solo. ‘Pornographic Mind’ is the alternative anthem for everyone with an onlyfans account as Alex brings the sass and wink wink charm out. Then she sends it all up with a saxophone section. ‘Infantile’ has a hyper manic piano and handclap militant march to set the mood. It feels like someone just scribbled over a MIDI controller with crayon and feels like utter chaos – yet it sounds perfect in the mix.
The key to all of this is that alongside the utter crazy elements of the music is Alex’s throwbacks to pristine and serene vocal arrangements you’d get from the ’50s and ’60s. Alex Lilly is blessed with a calming and alluring voice that sounds pure. She cleverly arranges her vocals so they often power together as a female collective that could shoop-shoop their way out any drama like a 60’s housewife. This means when you’ve got the slow-electro-pop of title track ‘2% Milk’ bubbling away in slow motion – her voice is the constant and it sounds like reason. The music is doing all kinds of crazy around her – such as in the grungy goth-synth ‘Cold Snap’ – but the voice, aside from one track, is left entirely untouched and sounds timelessly pure.
Production tricks are stuffed in throughout the album but the tracks can stand on their own two feet too. Opener ‘Confucius Says’ and the anti-pop anthem ‘Hypothetical’ should both be on constant radio play as pop hits. The quirky time signature of ‘Distracting Me’ is great fun too. Whilst Alex is busy trying to get rid of all the notifications on her phone, the chorus has a thirteen bar riff and so it doesn’t fit nicely into the usual rhythmic tropes. It distracts you too and its that level of quirk and cleverness that makes me adore the album.
I think fans of St Vincent, Olga Bell, Oh Land and probably art-pop and indie-pop as a whole would thoroughly enjoy Alex Lilly. Her humour is unique and so is her music production choices. It makes her stand out from the rest without making her silly either. It is a bold balance but it completely pays off. A superb debut.
Recommended track: Confucius Says
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