Before seeing her infectiously energetic opening set for Blood Orange’s Portland show last fall, I was admittedly unfamiliar with the greatness of Empress Of (AKA Lorely Rodriguez). That meant I had a lot of catching up to do: In 2015, the Honduran-American singer and multi-instrumentalist released her debut album, Me, in which her acrobatic voice soars over odd, skittering beats and bubbly melodies that walk the line between R&B and electro-pop. It’s a truly gorgeous record that sounds like nothing else I’ve heard, and I’m embarrassed I was so late to the game—especially since I could’ve (and would’ve) spent the past three years listening to “Standard” on repeat. Although Rodriguez’s 2018 sophomore album Us is more conventionally poppy than Me, it’s no less engrossing, from the synth breakdown on “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” to the restrained rhythms of “Just the Same.” Rodriguez alternates between singing in English and Spanish on tracks like “Trust Me Baby” and “When I’m with Him,” my personal favorite. Its lovestruck lyrics are somewhat generic, but the song communicates a very universal feeling, which is kind of the beauty and purpose of pop music. Empress Of rules this realm of positive energy and catharsis, and even though I showed up late, I won’t be leaving anytime soon.
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