Illuminati Hotties’ latest release is not the follow up release you’ve been waiting for. The mugshot on the album cover and its title would tell you just as much. Entitled: FREE I.H: This is not the one you’ve been waiting for, adapts a totally different tone from its sweet power pop predecessor. Stuck in a label that’s facing criticism from its artists on royalty payments, Sarah Tudzin had to make the difficult choice to buy out her contract and pause production on her second album.
What she released instead is a scrappy punk collection of short tracks that punch above their weight in a frenzy of energy and experimentation. From listening to this record one can surmise that Tudzin’s exit may not have gone very smoothly. She’s unleashed her fury and frustrations in this album in an unhinged catharsis which tone reminds me of DC’s anti-hero Harlequin. She moves from spiteful to satirical and whimsical in a blink of an eye. One of the greater side effects of the ordeal is her new found freedom, which has filled FREE I.H. with a smattering of fresh new styles.
It’s presentation may seem raw at first but the craftsmanship is anything but.
If the opener “will I get cancelled if I write a song called, ‘if you were a man you’d be so cancelled’” doesn’t introduce you to the Tudzin’s snarky demeanor, then perhaps the opening lyric will : “let’s smash to a podcast” rings in her high-pitched voice accompanied by razor sharp guitars. Representing pent up rage in a small package.
“free ppls” follows up with garage rock fervor, while “freequent letdown” tones the energy down in a power pop earworm that’s more in line with Illuminati Hotties’ previous material.
But in my opinion the album really opens up in centerpiece “free dumb”, in which she opens up with her current situation over verbose strings in a sentimental male-female duet: “While the world burns how could you care about a fucking record? / there was no love lost when you deemed that I was inessential”.
Other tracks such as “content//bedtime” expand on Tudzin’s sound. The only four minute track in the album, this is an expansive and controlled post-punk arrangement over motorik rhythms and atmospheric textures. “Free4all” is a shoegaze/chiptune instrumental breakdown that sounds like boss fight music from the Atari.
Still, despite the challenges that have fueled the spiteful energies in this album, it still ends on a high note. “reasons 2 live” is a stripped down song where Tudzin” lists all of her reasons to keep doing the work that she enjoys best, wrapping the album up in a neat resolution.
FREE I.H. may not be the album you’ve been waiting for, but there’s beauty in adversity. And in the case of Illuminati Hotties’ latest release, they’ve certainly found it.