In 2018 Illuminati Hotties released their debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, an immaculate slice of punk-scented dream-pop. But it was their sophomore record, Free I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For, that really created a buzz. The smart and sardonic record grew out of a label fiasco. Contractually obliged to release one more record before they could leave their previous label, which had been inundated with allegations of financial mismanagement, Illuminati Hotties’ vocalist/songwriter Sarah Tudzin shelved her current project and started on something new. Free I.H—adorned with triumphant flippancy and entirely unsubtle jabs at parsimonious label execs—was the provocative result. Though riotous and very funny, the album, by the band’s titular admission, wasn’t quite the one we’d been waiting for.
This is where Let Me Do One More comes in. Despite the out-of-order chronology (Let Me Do One More was written before Free I.H), Tudzin’s latest offering at least sounds like an attempt to marry the aching sincerity of her debut with the snotty irreverence of her follow-up. Her punky, subversive spirit certainly hasn’t gone anywhere—you don’t name your lead single “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” if you’re aiming for traditionalism—and another of the album’s highlights, “Joni: LA’s No. 1 Health Goth,” sees Tudzin sing the praises of the fictional Joni, a mullet-sporting feminist punk on a juice cleanse, in a kind of update on Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” for the millennial generation. At the same time, the dreaminess and delicacy of Kiss Yr Frenemies is in no short supply; ballads like “Threatening Each Other re: Capitalism,” or the album’s closer, “Growth,” offset the rockier tunes with the evocative combination of warm, heavy guitars alongside Tudzin’s near-whispered vocals.
It doesn’t always work, as the album as a whole can occasionally seem unfocused. For all the merits of experimenting with dynamics, juxtaposing a song sporting punch-me-in-the-face levels of musical aggression against a twinkling, ethereal ditty, can prove somewhat disorienting. That being said, it’s hard to find fault with any of the songs individually.
Lyrically, Tudzin is largely focused on relationships that almost—but don’t quite—work out. It’s masterfully done; Tudzin lays out her mission statement in the record’s breezy opener “Pool Hopping” with the line, “I’m not sure if you and I are over.” From there, Let Me Do One More continually gives a voice to those vague and uneasy spaces that exist in the slow, excruciating and most likely terminal downswing between the “will they” and the “won’t they.” “Never thought I’d grow attached / But now our sneakers match, and one of us always feels bad,” she laments in “Cheap Shoes.” “You’re leaning in / I’m leaning away / You think that you could love me through the sway?” she asks in “The Sway.” Tudzin never says what “the sway” is, exactly, and she doesn’t have to; we get it. Something is ending—and not with a bang, but a whimper. But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Despite the lyrical melancholy, Let Me Do One More sounds consistently sunny and lively enough to suggest a pretty nuanced view. This isn’t a downer of an album, but neither is it brimming with optimism, instead occupying plenty of nuanced emotional territory to explore.
Label: Hopeless/Snack Shack Tracks