Insularity is seeping into most every corner of western pop music this year – and, moreover, the world in general – but in the debut single from Leni Black, titled simply “Barcelona Butterflies,” airy harmonies take the place of a suffocating EQ for the benefit of anyone listening. Black might not have a full-length studio album under her belt just yet, but she doesn’t need to be told that in order to make a real splash in the pop realm, you can’t copy the same blueprint every other artist is operating with and simply make it your own. You have to have some element of originality, and for her, personality is at the center of everything in her songcraft.
This is a single with a strong lyrical focus, that much is obvious even at a distance, but without the delivery Black is putting up at the start, none of the mood behind her verses would be as definitive and commanding as it is in this instance. In order to shape her emotions rather than simply singing about the way she felt at a particular time in her life, she presses against the instrumentation with her vocal and gets physical with the melody – a feat I’d like to see her mainstream counterparts familiarize themselves with a little more in 2020.
There’s nothing specifically black and white about the rhythm in this track, and I would even go so far as to say that it feels deliberately uneven in a couple of spots to assistance in making some additional, enticing contrast in the composition. I’ve always admired artists who have the required brawn to get a little creative with the minor details that make up the backdrop in a single, and even if Leni Black isn’t a household name, she’s flexing muscle like she’s already got a Grammy on her shelf in this debut.
Despite the numerous compositional contradictions that would just as soon have gotten in another player’s way, “Barcelona Butterfly” exhibits the sort of fluidity that I would want to hear out of more pop music on the FM dial overall. Everything here is flowing like a river running out of control towards the ocean, and rather than reinforcing the consistency with any sort of plasticity behind the board, producer Marc Swersky is letting Black air out her skillset for the whole world to enjoy in this highly efficient recording.
Listeners who have been looking for some smart indie pop but finding that a lot of the typical sources for charisma have dried up in the last few months need to turn their attention towards the New England underground’s Leni Black this October, and particularly her debut in “Barcelona Butterflies,” before they do any other artists in that scene. I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear or see from this singer/songwriter, and if my gut is right, she could find herself outgrowing the rather restrictive Boston scene she’s emerging from by the time she gets around to recording an LP.
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