Album Review: Erika de Casier, ‘Still’

    The world of Erika de Casier feels effortlessly inviting. Up until now, the Portugal-born, Danish artist’s output has been marked by a rich interiority; she takes the idea of bedroom pop seriously, illuminating the space where pop music is commonly consumed and crafted, whether casually or with fierce passion. Sensual, textured, and elegant as her songs tend to be, she also displays a playful sense of humour that elevated her sophomore effort, 2021’s Sensational, whose title continued the tongue-in-cheek swagger of her debut, Essentials, while finding new ways to quietly exude confidence. You may or may not be aware of any of this going into de Casier’s latest album – though you’ve probably heard her work on NewJeans’ chart-topping 2nd EP Get Up or perhaps caught her remix of Dua Lipa’s ‘Physical’ – and she knows it’s kind of presumptuous to declare that she’s here Still, the kind of statement most artists don’t feel the need to make until much later in their career. It’s funny, but by the end of the album, de Casier’s journey feels subtly defiant; she welcomes the listener by promising “a lot of fun,” then shows more sides to her than either new or returning fans might expect.

    As she opens up her world – to a greater range of emotion as well as collaboration – you only get a stronger sense of the person behind it. In the past, de Casier experimented with characters that allowed her to explore how she might have acted in different situations, reconfiguring how things might have played out. But even when inhabiting a more extroverted persona on Sensational, she said in our 2021 interview, “It’s still me.” Much of Still revolves around a similar idea but does away with those characters, loosely charting the rise and fall of a relationship. This time, the drama doesn’t just unfold in her mind, so there’s less retrospective reflection: on ‘Ice’, she taps Tampa rap duo They Hate Change for a track that’s pure ear candy but mired in conflict, pinpointing the moment where a partner’s indecision turns the fantasy into a thriller. “I must be getting pleasure from all of this terror,” she admits on ‘Toxic’, by which point she only leaves room for her point of view, the excitement deflating into bitterness.

    De Casier is deliberate in her use of guest features, subtler the more high-profile they are and matching the vibe of the song rather than radically shifting it. Blood Orange delivers a briefly spoken word verse on ‘Twice’, yet it’s his harmonies that mesmerize, floating around in the absence of real closure; Shygirl’s appearance is less scathing than you’d expect for a track called ‘Ex-Girlfriend’, a curious and icy combination that avoids obvious PinkPantheress/Ice Spice comparisons. But with contributions from a host of producers and musicians, Still comes alive just in the way de Casier casts her presence across each instrumental. The drum ‘n’ bass beat skittering through ‘Lucky’ mirrors the rush of new love, but it’s her gentle vocals that fill out the landscape, the light seeping through the grey Copenhagen sky. The music is not just catchy but constantly evocative and ingenious: it’s one thing to talk about how “the sound of your voice is hypnotizing,” and another to then flip the sentiment around by stacking her voice into layers, reverberating with hurt as she vows to remember the details of a love affair whose colour has already faded.

    Erika de Casier isn’t one to shy away from intoxicating hooks, and the album is packed with them: ‘ooh’, which contains a winking reference to her last album, boasts one of her most memorable. (The wink is literally communicated: emoticons – not emojis – dot the lyric sheet, especially on the sultrier and more lighthearted cuts.) But the album does more than showcase her melodic prowess or bask in the air of sly detachment. She tests the boundaries of her voice and identity just as she confronts the subjects of these songs; if Sensational allowed for moments of loneliness and dejection, Still opens the door to deeper introspection, which is also when de Casier pushes her sound the most. She begins by singing in her lower register over gentle guitar on ‘The Princess’, struggling to reconcile the dreams she grew up chasing with the realities of holding down a career: “I wanna do it hard and/ I wanna make love,” she sings once her voice has risen, squeezing the words hard and love like they’re tightening up her throat.

    If she has to hold onto every version of herself to still be Erika de Casier, to still be moving forward, where does that leave the parts that no longer fit? It’s not that she fails on the promise of delivering a party; Still is every bit as ecstatic as it can be. But if you swore you “heard the sundown whisper,” as she does on the striking closer ‘Someone’, isn’t that the path you’d want to go down, the sound you’d want to reach for? So she lets out a long breath, and atop heavenly, cinematic pads, forwards her apology: “I said I’d hate you always/ Just ‘cause I didn’t know what to do without you.” That’s not to say she knows exactly who she is now, as that old adage, “Just be yourself,” is beginning to ring hollow. In the failure to commit to it, though, de Casier discovers the freedom of trying to be anyone at all, and in that, a kind of transcendence: the pleasure from all this terror. There’s no beat, but as a lead synth emerges, you can imagine yourself dancing to it.

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    The world of Erika de Casier feels effortlessly inviting. Up until now, the Portugal-born, Danish artist’s output has been marked by a rich interiority; she takes the idea of bedroom pop seriously, illuminating the space where pop music is commonly consumed and crafted, whether casually...Album Review: Erika de Casier, 'Still'