This Week's Public Picks

by / Jun. 15, 2016 3am EST

 Album:  Oxblood by Saint Opal

 Recommended if you like:  The Internet, FKA Twigs, ABRA

The name Oxblood, as a female voice brightly quips in the first seconds of Saint Opal’s new project, is derived from the color of the blood of an ox. Obvious? Maybe, but as the voice elaborates, we learn it can be used to represent a range of colors and emotions—and she wants it to “infiltrate your vocabulary.” Could this be symbolic for the infiltration of the city’s music scene Saint Opal’s music is beginning to enjoy? After all, loving and consuming art, especially from newer artists like the 19-year-old singer, is a way of expanding one’s personal language.

Disclaimers fading, the listener is ushered into opener “Mara Mara,” a woozy soundscape of shuffling electropop over which the simple, laconic poetry of Opal’s lyrics explores a tangle of romantic and personal doubt. Opal’s glazed voice is sweet and pure, a powerful instrument that she can twist into soaring effect when she wants—as on “Mara Mara“ ‘s heartrending chorus and one of her most wrenching lines to date, wailing “I don’t believe that I’m really all you need” to an estranged lover.

The electric honey of that voice weaves gently through the background of guest rappers’ Ez Amaldi and Billie E$$CO’s smooth verses on love and money before utterly drowning the second track, “gray.” Here, the singer begins to sound dangerously unmoored, turning in a widening void of warping synths and ghostly voices, conveying a sense of uncertain limbo.  You can hear her voice strain and stretch, bending back on looped versions of itself, drawing out choice syllables and wallowing in them like moonlit pools.

There are moments of vulnerability here, but perhaps none so warm as the gospel hymn that opens the last track “Christ”—a song that promptly jerks into a jittery, rattling banger, inverting church choir humility for a towering Messiah complex—defiantly claiming she’s Jesus Christ and sliding back to gospel again. It’s another idiosyncratic turn for an artist that seems to treasure her idiosyncrasy, bucking attempts to neatly define her music. As the singer says on the album’s outro—”I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anyone who needs a critic to find out what art is.” —Thomas Beckley-Forest

 The Public Choice Battle of the Bands 

To vote, go to Voters must log in to Facebook to vote. Voting for week five begins on June 15 and ends on June 20 at 3pm. Last week’s winner is Bryan Johnson and FamilyCheck back here next week to see the winner and to see the next batch of contestants.

Battling this week for the chance to open for The Arcs + Mariachi on July 21:

 Sol Y Sombra 

 The Tim Britt Band 

 Darling Harbor