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Poppy: An artist in flux

Poppy’s fourth studio album, ‘Flux’ deviates from the intensity of her previous discography while still expressing the artist’s ongoing metamorphosis.

<p>Poppy's latest album "Flux" was released September 24.</p>

Poppy's latest album "Flux" was released September 24.

Among fans, Poppy is known as somewhat of a “musical chameleon,” releasing everything from a collection of ambient sleep music to “Poppy.Computer,” her internet-themed debut album. Her latest work, “Flux,” acts almost as a thesis for her unique approach to music. This album departs from the intensity of her previous discography, showcasing her wide vocal range and dynamic style. 

The album opens with “Flux,” arguably one of the strongest tracks on the album. It begins with abrasive noise, building to a heavy riff accompanied by a driving drumbeat. A siren layered in the background builds underlying tension. Poppy enters, crooning, “You can’t oppose it / That’s just how it goes, yeah / You gotta flux and flow with it.” The track builds up to dissonant noise and screeching vocals, shocking the listener and setting the stage for subsequent tracks. This powerfully assertive track effectively serves as her thesis for the entire album — much like her music, Poppy herself is constantly flowing and changing, and she encourages the listener to do the same.

Another powerful riff transitions into the next track “Lessen the Damage.” The instrumentals take the stage here, propelled by Poppy’s sassy, metric-esque vocals. She transitions seamlessly between singing and screaming, drawing the audience in for the entirety of this energetic track. This is followed by “So Mean” and “On The Level,” relatively formulaic tracks for Poppy, combining pop vocals with intense riffs and screams. The album continues with “Her,” a grungy, Metric-esque track that critiques assumptions made about Poppy and attempts to box her into one trope. Although many of these tracks in the middle of the album are well produced, they tend to be similar to the point where they are arguably derivative. They often blend into the rest of the album rather than stand on their own as distinctive tracks.

“Hysteria” and “Bloom” take honorable mention due to Poppy’s unique vocals, delicately staccato on top of the backing track on “Bloom'' and smooth and euphoric on “Hysteria.” The penultimate track “As Strange As It Seems” is my personal favorite — Poppy sings sweetly over glittering, spacey instrumentals that swell to a crescendo and then fall again, filling the space like an organ does in a cathedral. Her vocals are gentle and euphoric as she sings, “I’m hanging on the steering wheel of a speeding car / I’ve got no regard for me, for me.” A beautifully sorrowful departure from her typical work, “As Strange As It Seems” showcases Poppy’s powerful versatility as an artist.

This album bookends itself well — Flux perfectly sets the expectations for the album upfront, and “Never Find My Place” wraps it up in a perfect synopsis — Poppy concludes that she is at peace with constantly morphing and changing. The chorus is a hauntingly simple intonation — “Pick up the gun and run / Take what’s mine and get my space.” It progresses into an intense instrumental break that builds to cathartic screaming as Poppy chants, “You broke into my life.” This track once again demonstrates what Poppy does best: seamless blending of catchy pop hooks and metal riffs that feel like pure catharsis.

Poppy once again showcases her range in “Flux,” pushing the album in different directions while still maintaining overall cohesion. The instrumentals are varied, textured and dynamic, and they perfectly complement Poppy’s greatest strength, which is her vocals. She starts out childlike and sweet, seamlessly slides into sultry and dark, then jumps to cathartic metal screams. Although Poppy’s lyrics tend to be lackluster, her instrumentals and vocals do most of the work in constructing an emotional experience for the listener. This album masterfully merges multiple genres and influences to construct a sound that perfectly captures Poppy’s ongoing metamorphosis. In many ways, “Flux” is a refreshing departure from her previous work, while still retaining the essence of Poppy and her musical philosophy.