If there’s one thing I cannot claim to be, it’s organised. I have documents filled with artist names and record titles, which are continually expanding. Consequentially, a lot of things I’m initially excited about get lost in the crush.
Case in point: Scarlett Taylor. I took a listen to her Heaven Punk EP back in March 2018. I liked it, but I couldn’t review it. I was still in thrall to the idea that I can only tackle something within three weeks of its release. I joined Pastel Wasteland in June of that year. The opportunity had passed.
I’m past that resistance now. And thanks to recent events, I decided to give Taylor’s later release Crystal Poles a spin. Taylor is a member of Borderline Musick – an artistic partnership which includes the subject of my last review, Queen of the Static Opera. The connection was made, so the time has come.
Taylor’s twitter describes her work as ‘dark alternative pop.’ “Lakehouse” demonstrates this neatly, as its slick production and tight trap beats would be familiar to anyone paying attention to the charts. But elements of it reminded me of Android Lust’s “Dragonfly.” For the uninitiated, this is nothing but a huge compliment, and it nods towards the ‘alternative.’
But what about the ‘dark?’ ‘I fire two shots/two shots/one for him, then one for me/down on the beach.’ This line from “Lakehouse” goes some way in demonstrating the themes and tone of Crystal Poles overall.
Hedonism, impulse, violence and the darker side of indulgence come up repeatedly. On the title track, Taylor explicitly laments that there are ‘too many parties/too many nights of being rowdy.’ “Left Him at the Party” talks about bodies and broken glass ‘scattered on the diamond floor.’
Beyond its lyrical quality, the range of creative flourishes in the production are really something. “Crystal Poles” itself features a gorgeous choral break 3 minutes in. “July 2nd” drops in some funk, with its gymnastic saxophone lines and skittering hi-hats. It ushers us into a smoky bar, which provides a compelling contrast to the imagery of dark underground clubs, dusky private beaches and debauched apartment parties.
“Independent” is the standout track on Crystal Poles. Not because it’s better than anything else on the EP, but because it turns our attention towards parental neglect, rejection and suicide. Taylor isn’t coy about anything on Crystal Poles, but the droning sounds lower in the mix are hypnotic, and really enhance the chilling nature of the subject matter.
Honestly, I really regret missing Crystal Poles the first time around. It’s incredibly well conceived, and executed masterfully. It inspires feelings of dread and tension, while also being effortlessly engaging. It’s a work of art that makes you think, but doesn’t force your gaze down to your navel. It is, without a doubt, one of the best records I’ve reviewed for this site.
You can find Scarlett Taylor here: