Out of the grimy Los Angeles underground, where nothing is seen as too extreme for the primetime, comes one of the most exciting new bands of 2019 in Sex People, whose debut EP Cal-Island: Season 1 hits record stores and streaming sites this January. Comprised of five songs, Cal-Island embodies music that affects us through pure, unadulterated physicality that is delivered bluntly and via a vibrantly tuned mix. Sex People’s brand of pop isn’t content to merely grab your attention with a sensuous hook – their sound is defined by beefy basslines and suffocating synths that lay waste to any wallflowers they come in contact with.
Exuberant numbers “Like a Queen” and “Mr. Emperor” are intrepidly designed and epically presented to us with a bright packaging that leaves little else to be desired, but they avoid the pitfalls of overindulgence by keeping their musical narratives short and sweet. Sex People demonstrate that they aren’t scared to let their hair down and allow these potent harmonies to run rampant (especially in the gorgeous “The LA Air”), but even when they’re at their most rambunctious, the chaos always remains under their control. This is a meticulously produced EP, and I get the impression that they spent a lot of time poring over the little details in these songs before ever clearing it for release.
There’s an undeniable club energy to songs like “Sanctuary City” and the closing track “Mr. Emperor,” and were it not for the indie pop-style complexities that these compositions boast, I would call them straight up electronic works. The rhythm of Mr. Emperor lusts after industrial grittiness, much like the tonality of “No West Left” does, but the sparkling instrumentation that frames its melody is far too colorful to be categorized as such. Conflicting as these ingredients are, together they make one heck of a sonic stew that can be fully enjoyed when listening to this EP without interruption.
One of the things that I like and respect the most about Sex People’s musical persona is that they don’t broach the climax of a song in the same way that the bulk of their rivals do. Instead of constantly building tracks around a blowout chorus or some endearing (but ultimately played out) hook that’s been dredged up from some classic tune, they make the tension in their arrangements the main flashpoint. This spreads out that “fever pitch” moment we all live for tremendously, and makes every song feel like an anthem.
If you’re in the market for new music right now and haven’t a clue where to turn next, you needn’t look any further than the searing sound that radiates from Cal-Island: Season 1. Sex People repeatedly do the opposite of what you’re expecting them to in these five songs, testing the boundaries between pop and avant-garde experimentalism while never losing sight of the melodic core that makes their music so affectionate and contagious. I’m fascinated by the idea of what they could do with an entire LP to fill full of this powerful style of play, which has already made itself at home within the walls of my brain after only a few cursory samplings of its grandiosity.
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