Download New Music: Gus Dapperton – Where Polly People Go to Read
Gus Dapperton comes through with a brand new smashing hot and dope studio album, packed with 10 amazing and solid tracks entitled “Where Polly People Go to Read“. The release follows recent singles “World Class Cinema,” “My Favorite Fish,” and “Fill Me Up Anthem,” all of which appear in the album’s final tracklist. Dapperton is set to play an album release party this Saturday at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. Later this year, he’ll play a series of festivals across Europe in support of the new album. He’s also playing Firefly Festival in Dover, Delaware in late June. Dapperton offers insight into how he approaches writing lyrics: “It’s just words that describe moments in time. It’s like phrases that are titles to a moment in time. I guess they mean more to me than some other people, because they’re very specific. But, I also try to keep my songs fairly vague so people can copy and paste their emotions into the songs as well.” Dapperton continues, “Sometimes [the lyrics are] literal experiences and sometimes they’re just metaphors that summarize a moment in time. Gus Dapperton makes sweet and frustrated sex songs for a generation that is increasingly not having sex. And how appropriate for these songs to be written, produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered all by the same 22-year-old. The lonely have to do everything themselves.
Where Polly People Go To Read is the young autodidact’s full-length debut, released on the streaming-focused label AWAL, which was expanded last year with a $150 million investment by the publishing company Kobalt. And Gus Dapperton is a good bet, averaging over a million monthly listeners on Spotify for just two self-released EPs. Born Brendan Rice and raised in New York, his sound is a hodgepodge of gauzy pop-rock, evoking Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, and the 1975, rendered much more bedroom-y by an omnipresent Roland TR-626 drum machine that he bought off eBay. The sense throughout is feelings through a filter, a nostalgia for someone else’s nostalgia.
The songs—not to mention Gus’ foppish stage name or his aggressively idiosyncratic fashion sense, with colorful eyeshadow and very baggy fits, even when he’s just wearing boxers—manage to feel both excitingly personal and a bit disingenuous. The confusion is greatest when he’s being opaque, like on the opening to “Eyes for Ellis”: “Finn loves Ellis/But a skin-tight hope/A thin sequella come amicable/A pinch won’t dwell about the brittle-boned.” If that’s hard to follow, at least he seems aware: “I’m a lot of words for a wannabe,” he sings on the next track. Or consider the album title, which would seem a bold, straightforward claim to polysexuality if Gus hadn’t told an interviewer, “Polly people, poly as in ‘many,’ is this term I invented.”
But you can deal in some light misdirection when you’re so magnetic. His self-directed, million-view music videos usually involve Napoleon Dynamite-like expressive dancing, except everyone is hotter. In casting extras, he often does that only-unique-faces-and-bodies thing that the 1975 did in the “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” video and Lil Yachty on the cover to Teenage Emotions. It’s welcoming, and that was certainly the case with the video for “My Favorite Fish,” where some dancing takes place on the roof of a moving boat. The song features an adorable couplet, “I don’t usually fall in love/I’m not used to fa-la-la-la”—the album has a few gems like that, like “I’m not your hero, but I’m here” on “Sockboy”—and it has a catchy, benign funk that wafts in as John Mayer likely wishes he sounded like now.
Much of Gus’ first two EPs had that cushioned vibe to a fault, often so relentlessly soft as to be cloying. Yet at a few key moments on Polly People, he moves beyond a caricature of a bedroom pop star to sound like a fully dimensioned artist. It happens whenever he adopts a semi-guttural, pained growl: the sound is there when he says “I feel like I’m famous” on “World Class Cinema,” or when singing about a love interest’s love interest on “Fill Me Up Anthem.” It sounds like it really hurts, the emotion even more jarring and precise when contrasted with the aimless horniness elsewhere.
Gus didn’t invent this delivery—it’s a defining move of his fellow viral Gen Z auteur Corbin, of whom Gus is a confirmed fan—but it nevertheless transforms his musical persona. In his weakest moments, he might sound like he’s grinding it out alone with this old gear because he is a safe guy and a Casio keyboard is a neutered instrument. But with just the little growl, the cuteness shows a crack, and it’s clear he’s using easy tools and the accessibility of pop to process difficult emotions. Sure, sometimes Polly People sounds like Urban Outfitters smells, but thanks to these moments of humanity, you might find yourself willing to forgive him. If pop culture in 2019 had a face, it may well resemble that of Gus Dapperton, the pastel-hued, androgynous New York twenty-something whose woozy, experimental releases so far have been a talking point in music and fashion spheres alike. His debut full length’er glistens with colour and a refreshing sense of innovation, living up to all the promise of the EPs that came before it.
Like his eccentric fashion sense, which often comprises of vibrant eye shadows, thick-rimmed specs and floral print to die for, Gus is a musical magpie with the ability to cherry pick the shiniest nuggets of inspiration from a range of eras, carve them up and stick them back together to form a glistening new product that chucks any notion of ‘genre’ out the window. On ‘Polly People…’ snippets of psychedelia, 80s pop and new wave, hip hop beats and post-Y2K glitchy chiptune are all neatly glued together by Gus’ infectious persona and curious poetic lyrics.
With ‘Prune, You Talk Funny’ and other earlier cuts, it was Gus’ dream-pop Mac Demarco melodies that earned him countless online hits, but ‘Polly People’ shuns the whimsy in favour of a gloomier tone. Recorded over a year in the downtime between gigging worldwide, the record explores the ins and outs of relationships as a young adult, and how they’re ultimately tied to self-acceptance too. On ‘Nomadicon’ he laments of a regretful encounter, “I hated that I hurt you just for fun / It tasted like the perfect medicine” whereas ‘My Favourite Fish’ finds him yearning for a girl over uber-smooth synth squeals: “I don’t usually fall in love, I’m not used to fa-la-la-la…”
As an artist who started his musical career making beats in his bedroom at is parents’ house, there’s a deliciously home-made, analogue quality to Gus’ tunes, courtesy of a beaten up drum machine he copped off eBay. It clicks away in the backdrop of each song, bringing more life to the vintage aesthetic he manages to so perfectly capture.
Nowadays, hop on social media and lo-fi bedroom pop artists are ten a penny, but it takes real talent, not just quirky haircuts and trendy clothes, to successfully leap over to the ‘actual serious musician’ camp. Dapperton has earned the right to that leap with this, an album that uses novelty as a Trojan horse to sneak a glistening new pop identity into the world. This is the kind of song(s) you wouldn’t want to miss on your playlist.
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