Empress Of has been hovering around the indie scene for a little while, but the promise of Us raised eyebrows. Much of Latin singer-songwriter Lorely Rodriguez’ music to date is sweet, graced by her young voice and holds generally nice sound quality. However, Empress Of hasn’t quite yet found that unique specialty that sets her apart. The two and a half years spent working on Us involved collaboration with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, some emotional digging, and even a quest to discover more of her Latin roots. Unfortunately, though, what successes Rodriguez made since her debut did not save the new album.
Similar to her releases of the past, much of Us is majorly lacking originality, only lightly framed with Rodriguez’ emotional voice. Without this gentle taste of singing style, her music really would be just generally listenable. A simple combination of dreampop, R&B, and alternative indie, everything sounds fine but needs a musical push to be better than average. It is hard to describe Us as more than decent.
Worth specifically mentioning are her two tracks “Again” and “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed.” “Again” closes out the album with a strange grace, and “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” is the certain high point: a powerful narrative of Rodriguez’ thoughts and attitudes. Ultimately, it is this feeling, portrayed by her subtle wavy vocal prowess throughout the album that makes it good. What keeps it from being great is that her voice in not quite backed by the musical context it deserves. A regular, indistinguishable “alt-indie” soundscape is holding Empress Of back, and has done a disservice to Us.