The album art for Poesy’s debut EP, Glass Box Confessional, immediately recalls the cover of Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes — a young artist contained, trapped and on display.
But the music found within this brief EP has more in common with Amos’s infamous synth rock band Y Kant Tori Read than it does the incisive, searching art-pop that Amos would eventually become famous for.
Across four maximalist slices of ’80s indebted pop-rock, Sarah Botelho — who makes music under the name Poesy — toes the ever-delicate line between homage and pastiche — and more often than not falls toward the latter.
Glass Box Confessional is a somewhat-dated sounding collection of songs, often leaning too heavily on detail-obliterating synth washes, blown-out guitar and pounding, motorik ’80s rhythms.
Chugging closer “Never Getting Rid of Me” is perhaps the most egregious, sounding like a copyright-free ’80s YouTube instrumental more than anything else.
Were it not for the top-40 enormity of the choruses and the compressed, mid-2000s-pop production, most of these songs wouldn’t sound out of place following Pat Benatar on throwback radio.
That’s not to say the EP is a disaster — there’s good to be found here.
The songs are relatively catchy, and Botelho has charisma and an undeniably powerful voice, often recalling Celine Dion in how she seems to sing from the throat, curling her voice around words in a way that belies her age.
Opener “Body Language” is perhaps the strongest — and most modern-sounding — song of the bunch, with a throbbing, Robyn-indebted synth figure and her most enjoyably overblown chorus.
Botelho’s drawled phrasing during the verse plays excitingly against the relatively minimal pulse that she rides atop.
It is a genuinely promising taste of what she’s capable of conjuring.
It’s the failure to experiment with her influences across the remaining three tracks that ultimately does Poesy a disservice.
It seems Poesy — a contestant on Canadian star-making reality show The Launch — was in search of a discernable sound and brand, something that sets her apart from the generally depressive minimalism of current pop music.
Vaguely empowering, gothic ’80s pop-rock is a genre ripe for the picking, and if Botelho and her collaborators manage to take the assignment slightly less literally, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about Poesy’s future.
For now, however, there’s an undeniable sense of nostalgia gone wrong — a fundamental misunderstanding of why ’80s pop remains relevant today.
The best aspects of the decade’s sounds — the iciness, the spaciousness, the elasticity and willingness to experiment — are ignored in favour of its worst tendencies.
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