If pop culture in 2019 had a face, it may well resemble that of Gus Dapperton, the pastel-hued, androgynous New York twenty-something whose woozy, experimental releases so far have been a talking point in music and fashion spheres alike. His debut full length’er glistens with colour and a refreshing sense of innovation, living up to all the promise of the EPs that came before it.
Like his eccentric fashion sense, which often comprises of vibrant eye shadows, thick-rimmed specs and floral print to die for, Gus is a musical magpie with the ability to cherry pick the shiniest nuggets of inspiration from a range of eras, carve them up and stick them back together to form a glistening new product that chucks any notion of ‘genre’ out the window. On ‘Polly People…’ snippets of psychedelia, 80s pop and new wave, hip hop beats and post-Y2K glitchy chiptune are all neatly glued together by Gus’ infectious persona and curious poetic lyrics.
With ‘Prune, You Talk Funny’ and other earlier cuts, it was Gus’ dream-pop Mac Demarco melodies that earned him countless online hits, but ‘Polly People’ shuns the whimsy in favour of a gloomier tone. Recorded over a year in the downtime between gigging worldwide, the record explores the ins and outs of relationships as a young adult, and how they’re ultimately tied to self-acceptance too. On ‘Nomadicon’ he laments of a regretful encounter, “I hated that I hurt you just for fun / It tasted like the perfect medicine” whereas ‘My Favourite Fish’ finds him yearning for a girl over uber-smooth synth squeals: “I don’t usually fall in love, I’m not used to fa-la-la-la…”
As an artist who started his musical career making beats in his bedroom at is parents’ house, there’s a deliciously home-made, analogue quality to Gus’ tunes, courtesy of a beaten up drum machine he copped off eBay. It clicks away in the backdrop of each song, bringing more life to the vintage aesthetic he manages to so perfectly capture.
Nowadays, hop on social media and lo-fi bedroom pop artists are ten a penny, but it takes real talent, not just quirky haircuts and trendy clothes, to successfully leap over to the ‘actual serious musician’ camp. Dapperton has earned the right to that leap with this, an album that uses novelty as a Trojan horse to sneak a glistening new pop identity into the world.