John Daniel Powers
It's like she's saying, 'Look at me, but don't judge me too harshly.'
Lorely Rodriguez, the 23-year-old singer known as Empress Of, creates songs so arty and high-concept that The Guardian called her pretentious. Do a bit more digging and you'll see that she doesn't take herself that seriously. On Twitter she describes herself as "sextacy" and follows self-deprecating folks like Bill Murray and Tyler, the Creator. On Facebook she calls her musical genre "selfie." It's like she's saying, "Look at me, but don't judge me too harshly."
Pretentious or not, Empress Of serves a quality product: dreamy pop with electronic flourishes that add intriguing textures and rhythms. She's also early in her career, with only two EPs to her name, so she's got plenty of room to grow.
Here are three songs to check out before her Oct. 31 performance at the UW Union South Sett.
Several versions of this song are floating around the Internet. One, recorded in Brooklyn, N.Y., two years ago, presents the artist as a sweet-voiced angel dressed in lace. She plays a piano, emoting as she sings lyrics like "Don't tell me it's too late for us/I want to wake up with you/By your side/Watching skies all through the night." With swirls of keyboard, hazy reverb and a slow, bass-laden beat, the official video seems tailor-made for a steamy makeout session, not the hopeful hand-holding the former recording brings to mind. Both renditions are jaw-droppingly beautiful, though.
The Guardian names this track when dubbing Empress Of's work "torch songs from another dimension," while others have commented that it seems to be about a ghostly figment of the artist's imagination. It marries the gauzy magic of a '90s shoegaze song by My Bloody Valentine with the dark sentimentality of a Lykke Li tune, without sounding derivative of either. Synth melodies emerge in loops, giving the song a hypnotic quality as Empress Of asks her spectral lover to reveal what her future will be. This song should be a hit if she performs it at her Halloween gig.
Empress Of delivers her lyrics in Spanish on this mystical track about melancholy and the moon. But understanding the words isn't necessary for enjoying the tune. The original recording boasts a haunting minor-key intro that gives way to a rhythmic interlude of labored breathing and a virtuosic chorus of whoas and space noises. El Guincho's remix dresses the track for a club with a glitchy beat and the sound of a crowd chattering in Spanish, then sprinkles snippets of the original over a lounge-style keyboard melody. Delorean's version drapes the song in smiles and rainbows, adding cheerful, bell-like synth sounds fit for a J-pop hit.