Review Summary: Critique on the dehumanization of society, vulgar sex acts, and spacey epics all contained within one album.
The title of OIL OF...
is a sneaky homophone phrase, translating to 'I love every person's insides.' That sentence relates to Sophie's aesthetic as of late, presenting herself as an androgynous being that never refers to one specific person when inserting lyrics into her music. She lets an inhuman voice command the listener to bounce, shake, completely lose control of their body. This allows every listener, no matter who they are, to be affected to some degree by the booming instrumentals and cartoonish pitched-up vocals, both of which are still here. Occasionally they will be put on hold, though, to provide some astonishing vocal performances. Those performances make this album notable among all her previous work.
The entirety of It's Okay To Cry
refuses to be labeled as gimmicky, and while it still contains Sophie's trademark spontaneous edits, the listener is not meant to nod their head to a sonorous rhythm. These lyrics are honest and emotionally moving, and the ultra-soothing synth accompaniment could be enough to move someone to tears if they let it. Sophie helps you through the crash after the high, taking the place of your close friend who would "know you best" and think "your inside is your best side." This was the first single for OIL OF...
and is the first song in the tracklist, but it does not set the tone for most of the album. The following two tracks are the other two singles, Ponyboy
. Both songs jump right back to the ferocious dance music with which Sophie has established herself, but one of the voices present this time is vastly more barbaric than the artist has ever been before. It sounds gruesome, nearly terrifying, as it begs for abuse on one track and acts as the bassline on its successor.
The fact that Faceshopping
's growling synth is actually speaking was mind-blowing on discovery, but what's even more shaking is what follows that up. Is It Cold In The Water?
utilize a distinct female voice singing about falling, feeling hopelessly alone, or just craving information about someone. The former has no percussion at all, and the latter has subtle smatterings of it every once in a while. Again, we hear examples of Sophie orchestrating something truly beautiful. Still, neither of these songs are the peak of Sophie's tranquilizing quality on OIL OF...
. That title goes to Pretending
, a six-minute ambient piece lathered in immense reverb. No drums, no words. It is only layers and more layers of sound.
Every once in a while, Sophie tries to suppress the urge to drag out a song with lush pads and heartfelt lyrics. Immaterial
and Whole New World
(half of the nine-minute epic that closes off the album) make an effort to return to the bouncy and bubbly style that she crafted so well in previous years. Immaterial
is especially good when compared to some other songs on this album. What it lacks in pop experimentation is rekindled through an extremely catchy rhythm and set of melodies. I wish this showed up more on OIL OF...
. If anything held it back from being incredibly exceptional, it is because this concoction of a pop base and cuddly blankets of sweetness is not seen enough. Most of these songs are still phenomenal, but some are either too dark or far too shiny to give the entire project consistency.
It was an interesting choice to put the three pre-release songs at the very beginning of this album. All familiarity vanishes after that point, and Sophie will periodically struggle to maintain that surge of integrity. It slips when a song sees too much of the artist's experimental or noisy side, and falls when 15 minutes have passed with very few discernible beats. Almost every song, when digested by itself, is a spectacular showcase of Sophie's musical prowess. I will keep returning to OIL OF...
to get a rush of excitement from songs like Faceshopping
, but as a 40-minute album, this project can't help but falter in a few places.