Bands to Watch #357: Empress Of

By on Monday, 14th September 2015 at 12:00 pm

Lorely Rodriguez, better known by her stage name Empress Of, is not truly a new artist in the conventional sense of our Bands to Watch feature. However, her debut album ‘Me’, recorded in Mexico and released on XL Recordings / Terrible Records just last Friday, and it’s already garnering the Honduran-American who grew up in Los Angeles serious critical plaudits, so we’d be fools not to give her some of our time.

For a young woman who was once a competitive jazz singer and attended – and then quit – an East Coast music school to which she’d won a full scholarship to, it’s not a surprise her vocal acrobatics shine on her debut. For more evidence, have a watch and a listen to ‘How Do You Do It’, a frenetic behind the scenes look at Rodriguez’s touring life. She’d best be getting used to this, with her North American tour campaign to support ‘Me’ having just begun in earnest in her current home in Brooklyn Sunday night at the Music Hall of Williamburg.


Jon Pareles of the New York Times lauded her debut LP, saying of her sound, “Empress Of provides the neatness of pop minus the reassurance.” For sure, her coolness makes her come across like a modern day Kate Bush on album track ‘Need Myself’, who Rodriguez said on Twitter makes her “immediately feel hungover and 19 again”. Presumably Ms. ‘Babooshka’ was a good childhood influence? The influence of another idiosyncratic and uncompromising artist, Bjork, seem also apparent on ‘Kitty Kat’, Rodriguez putting her voice through its paces in an almost Oriental way, synths buzzing and beats booming. I’m imagining it must be quite a feat to behold live. (Sadly, I didn’t get a chance at this in person, as she cancelled her appearance at the Great Escape 2015 back in May.)

When I saw that Rodriguez’s early Spanish/English language EP ‘Systems’ was released in 2013 on UK indie label Double Denim Records, that rung a bell…because New York via Colombia and Vancouver artist Tei Shi signed with them late last year. It seems inevitable that the two will be compared, owing to them both having Latin backgrounds and their predilection towards electronic music with dreamy vocals on top. Will they be friends? Will they be rivals? Either way, I think we’re headed towards a total renaissance of strong female singer/songwriters firmly in the electronic realm. Which can be nothing but a good thing in my books.

‘Me’, the debut album by Empress Of, is out now on XL Recordings / Terrible Records.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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