Sunday, December 5, 2021

Self Esteem review, Prioritise Pleasure: Ex-‘indie girl’ evades cliché on a cathartic second album

As one half of the indie duo Slow Club, Rebecca Taylor grew tired. Having split from the group in 2017, she now recalls feeling exhausted at having to communicate the “supposed authenticity” of being “indie”. Now on her second record as a solo artist, performing under the name Self Esteem, she has found that realness elsewhere: mainstream pop.

Prioritise Pleasure is foot-stomping, gum-snapping fun, with some experimental moments thrown in for good measure. Most notable is the spoken word track “I Do This All the Time”, a millennial spin on Baz Luhrmann’s “Sunscreen”. Certain tracks glisten in high gloss, but others embody a DIY ethos reminiscent of Fiona Apple’s 2020 record Fetch the Bolt Cutters. “How Can I Help You” trembles under an onslaught of percussion as Taylor rails against the objectification of women. In gnarled breaths, she chips back sarcastically: “I don’t know s***! I don’t know s***!”

Taylor’s messaging is nothing new – women’s rage and empowerment are part and parcel of modern-day pop. But on Prioritise Pleasure, those themes are delivered with a spiky vulnerability. Not to mention a good sense of humour: “Sexting you at the mental health talk seems counterproductive,” muses Taylor on the shimmery funk bop “Moody”. Elsewhere on the album, she tells an ex: “I want the best for you but I also hope you fail without me.”

The pull of these songs lies in Taylor’s hard-earned confidence. Bedroom-dancing hooks about self-worth, self-love and yes, self-esteem are defiant mantras rather than empty platitudes of the “live, laugh, love” variety. Across the album’s 13 tracks, she flits easily between pop’s peripherals and its core, dispensing emotional catharsis all the way.

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