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Live Review: ELIO's debut EP is a future-pop soundtrack to our confusing 2020

27 July 2020 | 3:41 pm | Mack Perry

At seven tracks spanning 23 minutes, ELIO’s debut is a musical diary — a lush collage of future pop, dreamy shoegaze, and bedroom indie.

While Swansea-born, Toronto-bred, LA-based artist ELIO wrote most of her EP before the world went into lockdown, the record still sounds almost like her fragmented quarantine journal. After a streak of intense LA studio sessions, ELIO connected with Charli XCX through their mutual manager. The UK alt-pop star signed on to be the newcomer’s creative consultant, and her influence is glaring. At seven tracks spanning 23 minutes, ELIO’s debut is a musical diary — a lush collage of future pop, dreamy shoegaze, and bedroom indie. “Every song kind of represents a different year, a different month, and a different experience,” she told Apple Music.

Almost everyone around ELIO’s millennial/Gen Z age can sympathisze with her words: overthinking and anxiety, uncertainty after leaving home, dissociative effects of digital connection, and long-distance relationships. The future-soul and hard drums are coupled with a bedroom pop authenticity: behind the maximalist pop aesthetic hides the feelings, fears, and thoughts of a twenty-something-year-old who just launched herself across the world into the unknown.

“My Friends Online” confronts social life through a screen, an ever-prescient insight into our last few months. Over glossy synths and 8-bit blips, ELIO laments “I just want my friends online/to be around me when I die”. The introspective title track has her flipping back and forth from viewpoints of both sides of her on-and-off again relationship. Over a slow R&B beat, “Haircut (Reputation)” finds her impulsively cutting and dying her hair during a mid-breakup moment of emotional fragility. The EP’s gem is “Waste of Emotion”, a letter of self-reassurance penned in the anxious few days leading up to a flight from Sweden to LA.

Contrasting her youthful lyrical themes, the instrumentation and arrangements show established production, complete with fluid beat switches and punchy drums. ELIO selects tricks and tactics from her predecessors and inspirations, like Taylor Swift’s 1989-era 80’s synth production, Lorde’s layered harmonies and sharp vocal enunciation, Sufjan Stevens’ indie touch, and The 1975’s glossy rave riffs and introspective and social critiques (“My Friends Online” sounds like it could have been a cut from the latter’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships). With “u and me, but mostly me”, ELIO delivers a talented debut EP—a scrapbook-style soundtrack to our confusing 2020, and a promising display of the future of pop.

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u and me, but mostly me is out now. Buy/stream here.

Words by Mack Perry

Image via Facebook