I’ve been waiting for SOPHIE’s debut album for quite some time now, having immensely enjoyed a selection of her singles over the years, namely “Bipp”, “Lemonade”, and “Ponyboy”. Anticipation grew into genuine excitement after the release of “Faceshopping”, an enthralling post-industrial banger, equipped with a scalp-burning beat that I still can’t get enough of. For me, it remains SOPHIE’s greatest track. The truth is, I didn’t know what to expect from OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES, particularly after listening to lead single “It’s Okay to Cry”, which sounds like a bog-standard Disney pop song actuated by prodigious production. It’s a curious opener to say the least, though the overpowering sense of grandeur does successfully carry over to songs like “Is it Cold in the Water?” and “Infatuation”. It’s certainly sprawling, but unfortunately not that affecting. This is a repeated conclusion by the time the album finishes with “Whole New World/Pretend World”.
The real treat lies in the production. OIL just sounds amazing. Even a song like “Immaterial”, which at first annoyed the hell out of me, sounds too crisp and immaculate for me to ever turn it off. At this point, SOPHIE’s production style is her primary asset, and I’m certain that therein lies the illustrious future. Whilst there is a plethora of interesting production ideas here, there’s also a notable absence of creativity in actual song writing. “Faceshopping” and “Ponyboy” are two obvious standouts, because they are romping bangers with mind-blowing beats. I’m not sure substance is lacking per se — there’s clearly a focus on freedom at play here — but it does at least feel secondary to the production, which is the main attraction. Fortunately, SOPHIE is indisputably one of the most compelling and refreshing producers in modern music, so OIL is still an enthralling listen. Not always enjoyable, but always engaging, and that’s a good starting point. Whether it’s her own material or featured production for another artist, I can’t wait to see what she does next.7 10
Favourite tracks // Faceshopping
Favourite tracks // Pretending
SOPHIE’s debut album is a testament to her skilled production and experimentation with electronic, dance and pop music. Fans of the twisted, distorted, sub-drenched instrumentals from her 2015 compilation PRODUCT and from the lead singles to this release won’t be disappointed, with the likes of “Not Okay” and “Pretending” adding to the showcase alongside the nine-minute-epic that closes the album. Skirting the periphery, however, are several tracks of a far more sugar-pop ilk. The opener, a first for the producer as it features her own vocals, is far more radio-friendly and “Immaterial” and “Infatuation” follow its lead, slotting in without much warning between the remainder of the tracklist. Besides these tracks making up some of the least enjoyable moments on the album, it also makes for a disjointed patchwork of music. While the midsection does its best at transitioning between tracks despite the radically different sounds on show, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES has a hard job gelling together at times. The experimental nature was bound to make this a difficult album all around, and while I hear a lot to like on here across individual tracks, it’s hard not to see the clear misses too. When I use the word ‘showcase’, it really does apply to this debut as a whole, often feeling like a demonstration of SOPHIE’s impressive production skillset and the boundaries she’s trying to push, but to make a good album I feel like more focus and cohesion is essential and, in this case, lacking. My interest has, nevertheless, been thoroughly piqued by the run-up and release of this album and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for her future work.6 10
Favourite tracks // Ponyboy
Whole New World/Pretend World