Valiant Vermin has built an aesthetic on squishy synths and over-caffeinated hooks programmed to simulate today’s crop of pop music in weirder state of artificiality. Think of music in the context of PC Music and Sophie, combined with the bubblegum pop of the late ‘90s and the sparkly experiments of Grimes and Charli XCX. It might sound complicated on paper, but the lyrical themes say otherwise: it’s pure teenage fun, but a little hollow to the core, emotion-wise.
A few hours ago, the young electro-pop sensation posted her 8-track album, TTFN on Soundcloud. The tracks as expected, are syrupy in palpable doses. You can imagine Barbie dolls in neon-colored suits singing along to “New Sensation” or “Jacques” but not without the creep factor. It’s bubbly, fizzy, and chirpy—qualities that would instantly turn off alpha males looking for a little crunch and fuzz in their serving of indie or electronic music.
This insistence to not pander to a particular taste is what makes TTFN a cut above the rest. While not exactly groundbreaking and polished on a production standpoint, it’s a record that refuses to please anyone. What it lacks in wisdom and feels department, it makes up for its singular vision. It’s not afraid to sound and feel feminine, to get you laced under its hot-pink skirt. If K-pop went lo-fi, devoid of its excesses and brought to life by a more left-field kind of pleasure, then it would probably be like TTFN. There goes the cute factor, but the kind that brims with confidence and style.
There’s a lot going on in TTFN that deserves special mention. “Pimp” and “Moses” are pure synth-pop sweetness, rolled with just the right amount of swoony electronic beats and sunshine infectiousness. There’s untapped crossover potential on “Alaskan Girl,” a collaboration with Brooklyn-based rapper Marinate. Surface is everything, and the song emphasizes the immediate pleasure that comes with a well-produced pop recording. “Jacques” sounds air-brushed to pastel perfection: texture and shape refined until it’s superficially retro, readying itself as a possible Carly Rae Jepsen B-Side.
Not everything gels on TTFN. Some tracks while a little less formulaic, feel uninspired. By the time you reach “Who Dis,” the excitement wanes. You hear the same aesthetic flourishes all over again. You get the same old vibe, reprised in a way that mimics the high you get from glossy bedroom electronics and sun-dappled synths. “Reprise” fits the title: a summary of every sonic element you can find on TTFN. But it leaves nothing new to the taste, nothing worth a second look. Given its slight misgivings, TTFN is an instant jam that completely erases the idea that women in electronic music should be solely assigned the role of a muse to a producer’s vanity project. Like Valiant Vermin, they too can shape a landscape of sounds without being marked inferior to the opposite sex. - IECU