Underscores


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Fishmonger (2021), 6/10
Wallsocket (2023), 6/10
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Underscores, the project of New York-based San Fransisco-born transgender Filipino-American singer-songwriter and producer April Grey (born Devon Karpf), emerged as a diligent pupil of Skrillex's dubstep singles such as Mild Season (2015) and EPs such as the orchestral About the Kid that Never Left the House (2018), the oneiric Melodrama, off the EP Skin Purifying Treatment (2018), the neosoul-tinged Set u Off (365), off the EP We Never Got Strawberry Cake (2019), and the poppy Pay Attention, off the EP Character Development (2020).

Grey was also a member of the electronic collective Six Impala that released the albums Rubber (2019) and WFLYTD (2020), and of the band Papaya & Friends that debuted with the single Lactose Intolerable (2020).

The album Fishmonger (2021) altered Grey's trajectory, introducing her as a practitioner of 100 Gecs-style hyperpop with catchy singalongs disguised in different ways (Your Favorite Sidekick, Dry Land 2001). The project succeeds when it is matched by adequate energy, as in the ramshackle punk-rock of 70%, in the exuberant ska-punk of Spoiled Little Brat and in the grunge-folk hybrid Kinkoís Field Trip 2006. But thousands of musicians have already made similar songs. The album had an appendix a few weeks later: the seven-song EP Boneyard aka Fearmonger (2021), with the bombastic Tongue in Cheek (produced by Blink-182's Travis Barker).

After the single Count of Three (You Can Eat $#@!) (2023), Underscores' second album Wallsocket (2023) expanded the narrative of Tongue in Cheek and of the 21-minute EP The Story of S*nny (2022) into a whole concept album about three troubled young women named S*nny, Mara, and Old Money Bitch who live in a small town. Hyperpop singalongs like Locals (probably inspired by cheerleaders practice), Johnny Johnny Johnny (probably inspired by playground' nursery rhymes) and Old Money Bitch (probably inspired by tropical parties) are now vehicles for a more mature, austere and eloquent narrative, which in fact works better in the naked format of You Donít Even Know Who I Am and Horror Movie Soundtrack. Grey/ Karpf borrows from bombastic emo-pop for Cops and Robbers (with a childish coda of noise) and Uncanny Long Arms, and Shoot To Kill recalls Beck's eccentric synth-pop. Whatever the style, the songs mainly rely on the highly emotional lyrics. The melodies and beats are far from original, but the laptop work (the production) is impeccable and imaginative, both when layers of sounds creates burst of noise and when alien sounds (like a vocal sample) destabilize an otherwise straightforward tune.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )