To the uninitiated, asking if you fancy checking out Empress Of might get you an order for a Balti and pilau rice. And while delicious, they’re not quite as delectable as the offerings from this fledging Brooklyn songstress.
Empress Of, known to her friends and family as Lorely Rodriguez, is set to make 2013 sound very interesting indeed. Signed to Grizzly Bear-bassist Chris Taylor's Terrible Records, on first sight you might wonder what exactly makes her any different to any other SXSW showcasee with their scraped-back hair and experimental sounds and blurry Facebook profile picture. A flute, maybe? She’s certainly got the lurid retro cassettes on offer, not to mention her YouTube-based ‘sight and sound’ ‘Colorminutes’ project. So far, so standard, right?
And then you listen to the music. And you change your mind.
A little shoegaze-y, occasionally ethereal and extremely well put together, Empress Of is like nothing you’ve quite heard before. She’s one of the very few, very lucky singers who should escape instant labelling. It’s clever, flirty pop, but not self-consciously so. "Hat Trick" has a little 80’s swag to it: imagine blasting it from a sun-dappled window come mid-summer and be swept away. And "No Means No" just instantly sounds like it’s always been one of your favourite songs.
Want to feel a little more cultured? Systems can do that for you too. It’s a breezy world music EP for the millennial generation, where two tracks of the four see her switch to Spanish. "Camisa Favorita" is a joyful slouch of a song, where synths dance over a lolloping beat. On "Tristeza," the music swells softly amidst her lilting vocals, and it’s littered with sultry little huffs that would strain any camisa.
Empress Of is going places — places further than your local Indian — I promise. Listening to Systems is like welcoming in summer with open arms. [B]