In the wake of a decade defined by fringe alt-pop, there is a certain after-the-fact romanticism in what its artists were able to achieve: the esoteric but marketable work of Grimes, Purity Ring, iamwhoiam; the outsider romance of Tumblr behemoths like Sky Ferreira and Alice Glass. This DIY (or at least presenting-as-DIY) perspective shaped so much of the alt-pop we’re living through today, but the most common mistake that people make in our current time is the assumption that there was ever a simplicity or ease to these artists’ work, no matter how complex the final product ever became. At their best, the behemoths’ songs were shimmering pieces of effortless ABABCB pop, but the actual journey inside is always meticulously and laboriously polished to a fault. (True, resourceless “bedroom pop”— the kind that doesn’t enjoy some measure of success on your For You Page— is memory holed almost instantly, unless you’re friends with Bearface.)
So for Abby Cole — a Dallas songwriter who describes herself as ‘experimental electronic’ — to be able to nail down the ethos of her self-admitted predecessors? That’s immediately startling. She layers lilting, eerily satin-like vocals over a simmering haunt of electronic background, all of which suggest at a climax and build up to nothing but a tense and beautiful stasis. “I’m The One” doesn’t have a huge breakdown or clearly delineated bridge, because it understands that it doesn’t need that to convey its message. There is a genuinely enticing quality in the way Cole delivers the carefully emphasized hook of “Say you want me, say you need me”; she has an enrapturing, fairy-like lilt to her words, and an immediate uniqueness that belies her marked newness to the alt-pop game. The synths consciously pare themselves back when she throws in her delicate vocals; the vocals shift into ghost-like entreaties when the synths ferment and deepen.
The maturity and capability of Cole’s songwriting is startling, especially given the very recent start of her career, and I’m pleasantly excited to see where she carries the alt-pop torch. “I’m The One” is the second single off of her upcoming sophomore EP, SEETHRU, and you can watch the lyric video below.