By Ziggy Merritt
2016 was a banner year for Brooklyn-based electropop songstress Joanie Wolkoff now almost exclusively known by her evocative surname. Following up on the unyielding promise of her 2015 Talismans EP alongside producer Icarus Moth, her debut full-length Without Shame retained the same vitality while giving her more room for self-expression. By all accounts 2017 seemed as though it would be something of the opposite, passing by without much fanfare aside from the punchy “He’s a Lizard” single with Atropolis and another collaboration with Tyler McCauley on their debut Alum EP. Thankfully, as has been typical throughout 2017, surprises abound whether they are good or bad. Fortunately, the new EP Who Wouldn’t Fall errs on the side of good.
Her latest is more of a stripped down effort though just as uniquely danceable and retaining Wolkoff’s signature vocal stylings. Much of the appeal is that the album continually improves track after track, starting slow and ending with a percussive dream pop flair that captures the magic of past releases. That same percussion mirrors the more deconstructed layering unique to Shrines-era Purity Ring. This lends parts of the EP such as the lead single “I Keep This Heart (Beat)” and “Sorry Justice” a more determined and aggressive edge followed by more traditional themes of love and longing in Wolkoff’s lyrical offerings.
Unlike Without Shame, the EP is more uneven in its execution. The production here is not as awing as her debut, leaning more to the side of dance-ready pop and letting Wolkoff’s vocals capture the space in totality. This is not to say those vocals become especially tiring, but when comparing past releases where Asian-inspired influences and subtle touches of chamber pop paired so well against her nuances, a more predictable and canned layering doesn’t so well accentuate the composition as a whole. Those same influences are still woven into the texture of Without Shame but the fabric here feels more fragile and frayed.
“Not the Way I Do” follows through on a previous remark that the EP gradually improves after each successive track, regaining some momentum before neatly closing out the album. Here a somewhat flawed production is simplified and lightened to create an engaging hook that recalls the mystical ability of Wolkoff’s to produce addictive ear candy. Pairing light tropical beats and more worldly ambient influences it’s a near-perfect close that ignites a desire for so much more.