ALIAS is the second EP from London-based electronic pop/rap artist Shygirl (real name Blane Muise) whose discography I binge listened to in preparation for this review.
Her previous projects, including various singles and her 2018 EP Cruel Practice, all share a sound that has led to comparisons between her work, and that found on the roster of the PC Music label and it is very easy to see why.
Tracks from that first EP (produced primarily by Sega Bodega) are full to the brim of bright, piercing experimental pop style textures and strong, bouncing bass grooves which has allowed the label to make a name for itself in recent years.
Muise’s vocal abilities also show this project exploring elements of rap and hip-hop, sounds which are developed further on her 2019 single “UCKERS”, one of the highlights from her discography.
These factors combined make Muise’s pre-ALIAS work very enjoyable to listen to, however they do begin to suffer from repetition the more you look into the tracks. Much of the runtime on Cruel Practice begins to blur into one for example, with each track doing little to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
With ALIAS, Shygirl has successfully added elements of club and dance music to her repertoire making for an incredibly entertaining follow-up to her 2018 release. The track “TASTY” features these lush, tropical sounding piano stabs throughout its runtime coupled with a pounding bass drum, creating one of the most danceable and ‘poppiest’ songs of Muise’s career.
Similarly, the closing track “SIREN” uses this stuttering bass progression and occasionally pitch-shifted vocals to forbid this track from ever letting up with the breakdown in the last minute or so being a highlight of this entire project.
Aside from the branching out to these more dance-oriented tracks, Shygirl’s commitment to her experimental pop roots is still plain to be seen. Sega Bodega remains the main producer of ALIAS with his killer production visible throughout the project, yet Musie has also sought the help of other producers to oversee this body of work.
Among them is none other than PC Music alumni, SOPHIE whose debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides is a masterpiece of avant-pop, ambient and industrial music so her work on ALIAS feels right at home.
SOPHIE lends her talents to the track “SLIME” with her influence manifesting in the form of percussive hits that sound like laser beams before they melt into the background of a moody hip-hip style bass and Muise’s hushed and brooding vocal delivery.
It is a stellar track that is immediately followed up by the infinitely more uptempo “FREAK” with its beat rarely slowing down, intercut with vocals that feed into the sexual nature of the lyrics. It is Shygirl at her most unabashed, confident and bold, a sentiment that reverberates throughout the rest of this project.
While the remainder of the tracks from this EP are incredible, when compared to the rest of the music on offer, they cannot help but feel slightly tamer attempts at Muise’s interpretation of experimental pop.
The opening track “TWELVE” is the biggest victim of this as aside from the typical enjoyable tropes of a Shygirl track, there seems to be disappointingly little on offer although that does not make this a poor track by any means.
Overall, ALIAS proves that another powerful voice has entered the realm of experimental pop. With a sound and collaborators that are arguably quite niche in the grand scheme of things, Shygirl has taken the best parts of this genre and combined them with more palatable elements to produce a stunning EP that deserves all present and future attention that it will inevitably receive.
I cannot wait to see what she does next.
Purchase Shygirl’s ALIAS EP on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Tom Owen