iamamiwhoami: BLUE

On her first two albums as iamamiwhoami, Jonna Lee explored surreal universes populated by blinking trees, psychic mannequins, and tall, faceless monsters furred from head to toe. Her audiovisual works bounty and kin each house a subtle narrative that’s more concerned with the movement of figures through space than concrete dramas in the traditional sense. bounty followed Lee through a series of textural transformations as she clawed through the world around her apparently in search of someone tall, bearded, and naked who’s stranded in the Scandinavian countryside. kin saw her pass through different environments by enormous sentient shag rugs. Neither album resolved itself cleanly, but both fostered rich tension in music and visuals alike. Her best songs feel like they’d come for your body parts the second you divert your attention from them; thick and mysterious, they resist the usual half-life of boredom that affects songs designed for short-term radio play. Like the Knife, iamamiwhoami threads ghosts through what you thought you knew about the pop song.

Or she did. Compared to kin and bounty‘s viscerally unnerving shorts, BLUE‘s visuals play out like screensavers. Lee dances in beautiful scenery. Lee fits messages into bottles and casts them out to sea, attempting to communicate with figures in black morphsuits who don’t carry nearly the visual weight of her bizarrely disfigured companions from the first two records. The images are lovely but tedious, and the music follows suit. 

BLUE‘s audio component flows on synths that gleam like the ice Lee fondles in its videos, glassy and pale. “Hunting for Pearls” ripples with arpeggios that make it sound more uptempo than it actually is, while the bristling bass on “Tap Your Glass” sounds like it could have been scraped off Shaking the Habitual‘s cutting room floor. At points the album echoes Madonna‘s Ray of Light, but Lee doesn’t quite have the gravitas to pull off these round, easy melodies. She’s a songwriter that thrives on danger; BLUE encloses her in a space where she’s far too safe.

“Thin” is the closest iamamiwhoami gets to its old mischief, setting Lee’s voice close in the ear over faraway percussion. It’s riddled with the same neon arpeggios that take up space everywhere else on the record, but it at least leaves some shadows for Lee to get lost in. It shifts its course halfway through, moving seamlessly from slow stalker to towering ballad. But it’s a rare moment of intrigue on an album that’s generous in its beauty while leaving little to wonder about, a sky that never rains.

from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/14xoSG3