Let's talk a minute to look at this cringey promotional billboard for the new, abysmally bad Green Day album. With the condescending pedantry of a true rock elitist, the billboard goes: "NO FEATURES, NO SWEDISH SONGWRITERS, NO TRAP BEATS, 100% PURE UNCUT ROCK."
This rallying cry for the tragically out of touch is trying to make a point here about mainstream pop—it's vapid, brainless, and it all sounds the same. But it's 2020, my dudes. The Top 40s will always have some steaming turds in its rankings (that's mostly the fault of Imagine Dragons, let's be frank), but gone are the days where Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Shellback dominate the soundscape.
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You don't have to look far (it's as easy as hopping from artist to artist in your Spotify recommendations) to find pop musicians that deviate beautifully from the Billboard sound. In fact we've been in the middle of an indie pop renaissance for awhile now. You could say it started when Carly Rae Jepsen released EMOTION in 2015 and built a cult following as an indie darling, or when BP Valenzuela released The Neon Hour the same year, paving the way for more local musicians to embrace pop sensibilities. Now we've got the likes of MUNA, Rina Sawayama, Now Now, and Maggie Rogers waxing a certain kind of left-field pop in the west, and Pikoy and No Rome repping the pearl of the orient.
This is really all to say that if anyone should alert you to pop's new golden age in these shores, it's ena mori (stylized lowercase hers). The half-Pinoy, half-Japanese singer-songwriter has been making the rounds in the gig circuit since 2018 with her breakout single “Got U Good.” Now signed to Offshore (label mates include Cheats, Pinkmen, and ascending pop rock outfit One Click Straight), ena mori is ready to make her official entrance to the contemporary pop pantheon with her debut EP, now out on Spotify.
A graceful coalescing of different pop-inflected strains, her EP is difficult to pin down to any strict genre category. The harmonics and playful scatting on the eponymous opener track seem reminiscent of Imogen Heap. Then we get to "Telephone," a shimmering piece of work where mori's sense of cadence lends the track a nu disco feel. "Safe Zone," which funnily enough began as a demo for a cover of Foster the People's "Sit Next to Me," is its own full-fledged bop, full of synth and frisson. For this EP's lustrous production, we have Tim Marquez to thank. ena mori acts as her keyboardist in live performances and drums for One Click Straight.
Mori cites Lorde and Queen as primary influences, which explains her sense of melody and ability to make hooks that seem to dig right into the brain's pleasure centers. "Got U Good" is a sultry cabaret-esque joint. "Light" and "Break" have a Katy Perry-esque strut to their step. The closer "Walk Away" is a dance pop jam with solid-driving rhythms, and a saxophone solo to remind you that ena mori is not your ordinary pop star
"I think a lot of people underestimate pop a lot. 'Oh, jazz is better.’ ‘Oh, punk is better.’ ‘Oh, pop is just mainstream,' y'know?" mori tells me. "I wanted to make something all the people appreciate. The old people, the young people, artsy people and not-so-artsy people. I think pop is so universal." Her debut EP has something for everyone to enjoy, but at the same time is singularly her sound. Maybe the downfall of 100% uncut rock is nothing to mourn about, if musicians like mori are around.
ena mori will launch her EP at XX XX this coming Thursday, in a joint exhibit with Miel, Maker of Things. You can listen to ena mori on Spotify