Album Review: Sophie—“Product”

 By Marko Cindric

Prior to 2015, much of what we knew about Sophie was simply an assemblage of unconfirmed rumours gleaned from various corners of the web, but much has been revealed thanks to the elusive producer’s skyrocketing popularity this year, with collaborations ranging from Le1f, to Charli XCX, to Madonna. Amid this slew of high-profile collaborations tailing a number of the London-based producer’s own singles and remixes, Sophie (birth name Samuel Long) finally released his debut LP, Product, on Numbers last week. The first half of this heavily anticipated record is simply a redistribution of the producer’s previous singles “Bipp,” “Elle, “Lemonade,” and “Hard,” causing the album to feel much more like a gluing together of two EPs. Leading up to its release, Sophie began rolling out the previously unheard tracks of Product’s second half to SoundCloud — perhaps a questionable move, as this (along with a widely shared album leak) certainly dampened the anticipation leading up to its release. But Sophie was never one for convention, making this blatantly apparent both through the sonic textures on the album, as well as the “silicone product” — which, as far as internet consensus goes, is definitely a sex toy — for sale on the artist’s website.

Album art for Product

Album art for Product

In spite of its peculiar distribution method, Product is an extraordinary piece of pop music, always finding new ways to sound unlike anything else out there, stretching EDM tropes like bubblegum until they hardly resemble their forerunners. The trappy undertones of “Msmsmsm” are brought to new heights with its frantic, pitch-shifting metallic percussion, eventually giving way to dark, cavernous synth chords that sweep by like distant cars. “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye” features the trademark pitched-up vocals employed by Sophie and other PC Music affiliates, this time resulting in a soft-spoken ballad, but quickly launching it into ecstasy as a massive, gliding synth riff bursts open for its chorus. “Goodbye” also recalls a technique that made “Bipp” such a unique hit: stripping the song of conventional beats in favour of a strong, animated bass synth. “L.O.V.E.” is perhaps one of the most puzzling tracks on the album, predominantly composed of an irritating, wavering drone note underlain by bleak atmospheric synth pads. Endure the noise until the bridge, however, and you’re rewarded with one of the sweetest melodies in Sophie’s repertoire since the sparkly chorus of “Lemonade”.

It’s hard to deny that the shining star of Product’s fresh tracks is “Vyzee”. While its four-on-the-floor groove parallels conventional dance music, wide balloon-like percussion and a constantly sliding bassline elevate the track to a strange new level, at once bending all the rules of pop but nevertheless playing within its field. The bridge on this track is one of Sophie’s simplest, but perhaps the simplicity is what makes it — like most of the producer’s tracks, really — so magical.

In short, Product, while operating more like a collection of singles rather than what one might expect from a debut LP, is a well-rounded aggregation of all the things we know and love about Sophie. Curveballs like “Msmsmsm” and “L.O.V.E.” only highlight the producer’s versatility and staggering understanding of sonic textures and materials. It seems Product was never meant to be cohesive — instead, it presents itself as a collage of the digital zeitgeist, taking all the components of electronic music we’re so addicted to and bringing them to sugary new heights. If the world ever needed a pop manifesto, a compass bearing for the future of music, look no further. Sophie will lead the way. (Numbers)

Listen: “Vyzee”

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