?The future’s disquieting,? sings Annabel Alpers to open her third and final album as Bachelorette. She’s not kidding: these songs unfold as dystopian nightmares in which flesh and technology bleed together and finally become transient. ?Watch my face gradually disintegrate,? she deadpans later in that first song. On another, she wonders in softening tones, ?Never know which memory will be the last.?
As on previous albums, Alpers? philosophical space-pop is cyclic by nature, mulling over bleak ideas and sounds in her world-within-a-world zone of self-recorded warmth. There remains something of Stereolab in her anchoring repetitious synth motifs with such questioning lyrics. Despite that, and despite synths being so overexposed these days, Bachelorette is its own universe. Captured in four different countries (Libya, America, England, and her native New Zealand), Alpers? arrangements and self-production are thrilling to absorb here. Everything is fully formed and immaculately rendered, from music to vocals to sleeve design. While the songs can seem apocalyptic, they’re draped in an artful elegance that makes their bleakness somehow welcome. And whether it’s a spate of newborn babies in one song or the surreal glow of self-harmonising all over, optimism has a place too.
Bachelorette can be a hard sell to newcomers, as the similarities between Alpers? compositions are obvious and the differences quite subtle. Songs can feel at once stark and oversaturated, reflecting the lyrics? hall-of-mirrors vision of ever-advancing technology. But there’s always something to tickle the ear, no matter how minimal or simple, and the whole package is pulsing with life. A few listens in, specific departures jump out, like the campfire-folk guitar of ?The Light Seekers? or the toy-like melody introducing ?Sugarbug?. It’s like a quiet gate-crashing when proper drums come into play, and ghostly percussion only makes ?The Last Boat’s Leaving? more hypnotic.
Whatever Annabel Alpers? musical future, she leaves behind a trio of Bachelorette albums that sound stronger with time. Each revisit yields some mark of depth that went unnoticed previously. How much pop music can you say that about?