Where Polly People Go to Read
AWAL Records · April 19, 2019
An impressive debut from Gus and a good indicator of what we might expect from him in the future.
Just one look at twenty one year-old Gus Dapperton, and you’ll understand why many critics have referred to his aesthetic and style as idiosyncratic. His green bowl cut, eyeshadow, painted nails, and wardrobe inspired by the 80’s and 90’s feel well-represented in his debut full-length album, Where Polly People Go to Read.
With an album title like Where Polly People Go to Read, listeners might misinterpret the album as one about polysexual people or Gus’ own coming out as polysexual. But it actually derives from a term he invented, “Polly people, poly as in ‘many,’” he said in an interview.
The album, which was written, produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely by Gus himself, draws inspiration from the color palette of his childhood– the colors of the clothes and various hair styles. His approach to songwriting stems from a desire to create songs that pair well with visuals. In an interview with Milk Makeup, Gus explained the impact his childhood had on his music, saying, “I’m inspired by the sounds and the colors and the looks of my childhood. I had a bowl cut when I was a toddler and I have one now. And I’m also inspired by what I grew up listening to in my house, like ‘60s rock, ‘80s new wave, and R&B,”
The accompanying video for the album’s lead single, “Fill Me Up Anthem” is a clear depiction of this color palette — full of pastel purples, pinks, and blues and font that looks like a tribute to the theme of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
For a debut album, Where Polly People Go to Read is impressively cohesive. Dapperton distinguishes himself from other bedroom/indie pop acts through his unique vocal performance. In Verdigris, the opening track of Polly People, Dapperton’s vocals seem tame and somewhat average at the onset, but quickly unravel, showing listeners the slight growl that makes Gus’s music interesting. This vocal effect shines in “World Class Cinema” which sets a mood of teenage reminiscence with the lyric “I feel like I’m famous every time we’re alone”. His growl is equal parts intriguing and jarring, but effectively enhances the moody subject material that is often subdued or lost in the soft rock grooves that make up the album.
Dapperton’s ability to achieve a sonic consistency throughout the album is a confirmation of his talents in light of any criticism he may have faced after dropping out of a music program at Drexel University. In a profile in the New York Times, Gus explained “I couldn’t tell you what a note is — I can’t read music — but I can play the stuff if I hear it. I guess I like to learn by doing.” Evidently, he’s doing just fine with his self-taught process and Roland TR-626 drum machine which is ever-present throughout the entire record.
Polly People is an impressive debut from Gus and a good indicator of what we might expect from him in the future. If the bedroom pop elements of Polly People are tied to the angst of Gus’ early twenties, perhaps we can expect to hear even more of his rock influences and growl emerge in later records.