Willow: Coping Mechanism Review – Powerfully Dynamic Genre-Stuffed Pop | Culture

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FThe 21-year-old can boast of having enjoyed a pop career as long as Smith’s, now in his 10th year. Certainly, few are those who can claim to have covered so much musical ground. Even leaving aside her brief stint as an interteen pop idol, Smith has gone from alternative leftist R&B to experimental chamber pop, from Alanis Morissette-inspired singer-songwriter confessionals to shoegazy psychedelia. . By the time she released 2021’s pop-punk Lately I Feel Everything, she was at a point where she could appear on the cover of Kerrang! discuss the influence of the Lamb of God and sludge metal heroes Crowbar.

Whether you consider it all a Bowie-style shape-shifter, a reflection of the post-genre pop world spawned by streaming, or the dabbling dilettante you might expect from the child of Hollywood superstars, is up to you. What is indisputable is Smith’s ability to make music that resonates with young audiences. Never mind that his first exploratory album Ardipithecus received a mixed reception: his title Wait a Minute! inspired a line dance challenge and was streamed 765 million times on Spotify. Likewise, 2019’s crazy Time Machine has found a niche soundtrack for TikTok videos salivating dreamily over #hotbois, whether it’s Harry Styles or Chris Hemsworth; 2020’s Pixies-ish Meet Me at Our Spot was the perfect accompaniment to videos about what you did over the summer and/or anime clips; and 2021’s Transparent Soul resonated with lip syncing of emo guys, more anime clips and “Hey guys, check this out, I crocheted my own bucket hat!!!” -core. There are marketing departments spending millions trying to figure out how to cause dance trends, get emo guys lip-syncing, and indeed reach the #hotboi filmmakers and bucket hat crocheters of the world. Smith seems to continue to do so without breaking a sweat.

The artwork for the coping mechanism. Photography: PR document

You wouldn’t bet against something similar happening to a piece of Coping Mechanism, which hardens its sound. There is indeed the frequent hint of the circular pit and the combat jacket at its approach: a muted heaviness from the riffs of Ur a Stranger; the climax of Maybe It’s My Fault, propelled by a double bass drum beat, is topped with a shouto vocal. But it’s less generically streamlined than Smith’s previous albums, which clearly laid out their booth – psychedelic cover art for shoegazey Willow, guest pitches from Blink 182’s Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne on Lately I Feel Everything – and stuck to any style that was currently spinning her. head. Here, bursts of metal cohabit with lyrical harmonies that alternately evoke goth-rock and Queen, that flickering lo-fi guitar sound that feels like it was recorded on an old cassette, ska-punk, loose guitars reminiscent of early 90s American alternative rock and a guest appearance by avant-garde and provocative electronic experimenter Yves Tumor. All of this, it should be noted, is crammed onto an 11-track album that lasts less than half an hour.

It might be a mess, but it really isn’t. The production transforms the tinkering of styles into a powerfully dynamic record. Multiple genres are bundled into songs that rarely break the three-minute barrier, giving Coping Mechanism an appealing sense of restless urgency. The dynamic changes are linked because of Smith herself. She has a powerful, engaging voice that can shift with apparent ease from frankly pretty pop style to a full-throttle, head-spinning screech, like on Batshit closer!

Plus, if you were looking for a very prosaic reason for her success, you might stumble across the fact that she’s an exceptionally tidy songwriter. Its lyrics deal with screaming angst, clumsy poetry that reads as if ripped from a secret diary – “the wind in the trees whispering mathematics…refracts wisdom to heal the abyss” – and self-help homilies from the I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This But variety. Tied to their target market, they probably won’t hold you back long if you’re old enough to drive yourself rather than relying on your parents for lifts. But its melodies are both strong enough to stick in your head and freaky enough to never feel stale. On Curious/Furious, she pulls off the kind of immediately appealing melody that people pay massive sums of money to vast teams of Swedish writers for. On Maybe It’s My Fault, she pairs sonic twists and turns with a melody that doesn’t go where you expect it to but maintains a grip on your attention.

You could describe the coping mechanism as a cynical exercise in exploiting the way music is streamed these days: the science of what makes songs compatible with TikTok isn’t exact, but it’s generally accepted that strong Sudden surges and drops help, handy for when your crocheted bob is revealed in all its glory. But, above all, it doesn’t sound cynical: it’s too idiosyncratic and eclectic. Instead, it sounds confident: the work of someone who knows his seemingly impulsive approach to rock and pop adapting to the current landscape, and who’s taken that as carte blanche to do whatever he wants. It’s a trust that never feels misplaced.

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