Poppy first earned her chops as a performer on YouTube. Now, expanding her craft well beyond the medium, her latest album proves that there’s simply no boxing her in – despite all the attempts by previous collaborators to keep her contained.
Following the heavy I Disagree (2020) and the tireless Eat EP released earlier this year, Flux expands Poppy’s universe by drawing inspiration from '90s alt rock, shoegaze and grunge.
Flux and I Disagree share ideals of release that frequently see Poppy break into alkaline screams. On lead single “Her”, she bursts out when she comes into her own through performance and finally establishes an agency she’d been denied. The Nine Inch Nails reminiscent title track also ends majestically: far from desperation, the overlapping screams serve to reinforce a mantra that’s repeated in one form or another throughout the tracklist.
The new body of work also sees her doubling down on the dream pop that has always served as an undercurrent to most of her previous work–especially her early music–with the inclusion of the spacey “As Strange As It Seems” whose oneric vibe reminds of Angel Olsen’s '80s cover EP (Aisles) released last month. Poppy questions her old self as she recalls past abuse and manipulative patterns by previous creative associates. She asks, “Why did I let you into me?” before revealing how deep the roots of evil go by acknowleding “I’ve got no regard for me”.
It wouldn’t be a Poppy album without a dark introspective undertone to even mundane–or satirical–observations. She takes on the “mad woman” trope in the shoegaze-inflected “Hysteria” by playing into the role of the emotional wreck so easily plastered on female-presenting performers. Amidst it all, she sings, “It’s hard enough just to live with my thoughts”, seconds before going into the merry “la la la” chorus. The line might be lost on the inattentive listener but it is instrumental to building a more accurate portrait of Poppy as an artist on the move, both mentally and creatively.
The obliterating power of endless mental dissection is a theme that permeates the entire body of work. “Tonight, I’ll eat my brain” opens the last track on Flux before it unexpectedly turns into one of her most optimistic songs to date. She repeats, “Cause I know that I will be fine / If I never find my place” several times to conclude a cathartic album with a dynamic send-off into the unknown. It’s a promise of a refusal to settle for anything that doesn’t feel right going forward. It’s also an artist’s way of reclaiming a form of freedom that’s seemed out of reach for the longest time.