Album cover - Self Esteem: Compliments Please

Boosting self-esteem in pop songs usually involves major chord shifts and hear-me-roar choruses, the equivalent of clenching both fists and bellowing “You are the best” at one’s reflection in the mirror. But although the first proper track on Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s first album as Self Esteem is indeed called “The Best”, the anticipated upsurge of empowerment anthems does not arise. Instead, the emotional ups and downs that Taylor sings are conveyed as lithe electronic pop.

The style represents a swerve from the unobtrusive indie-folk of her former group, the Sheffield duo Slow Club, who split up in 2017. The main producer whom she has recruited for her solo debut is Swedish DJ Johan Karlberg of Afro-electro-pop group The Very Best. Although there is the odd lull, including several spoken-word interludes and a handclap-led song that sounds like a curious R&B version of Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music”, the best songs are highly compelling.

“Steady I Stand” soundtracks a tale of emotional suffocation with humming bass vocalisations, like a person taking deep breaths; meanwhile Taylor’s singing has an urgent edge (“Oh god I want you, but I can’t stand you”). “In Time” bolsters a post-break-up chorus of “Don’t feel sorry for me” with rolling drums, catchy hooks and multi-tracked vocals, like a cheerfully defiant choir of inner voices.

★★★★☆

Compliments Please’ is released by Fiction

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