by Rachel Saywitz
If you’ve never heard of indie-pop collective Superorganism, it might help to get a primer on how the group operates before you dive into a half hour of what could only be described as a journey to uncharted corners of pop territory. Maybe once you learn that the eight-member band initially bonded through an interest in Internet memes, used to write music through Skype conversations, and consist of members from all over the world (countries like England, Australia, Japan, and more), it may make a little more sense to hear an inspirational speech from life coach Tony Robbins plopped into the anthemic opener, ‘It’s All Good.’
Superorganism is full of these quirks, from sounds of cash registers and chirping birds littering the chorus of ‘Everybody Wants to be Famous,’ to Korean phrases sandwiched in between an English drawl saying “something for your mind,” in the song of the same name. It’s pop music at its maximum, though not always at its best.
While the various diverse sounds, samples, and voice effects threaten to ruin an enjoyable listening experience throughout this record, it’s lead singer Orono Naguchi who’s able to tie all these mismatched noises together with her voice. Despite not having an expressive vocal range, Naguchi is able to transition through various personas with ease, from a disillusioned millennial in ‘Nobody Cares’ to a jealous teenager in ‘Reflections on a Screen.’ The impressive lyrical content of the record helps her voice shine through and even creates a playful back and forth between her singing and the instrumental. For example, on the song ‘Relax,’ Naguchi tells the listener to “just relax” in the chorus, all while different car horns honk to the beat, almost trying to insinuate that one can relax even in what can seem like a hectic environment.
The whole collective consists of young members, and Naguchi herself is only 17. This helps give the record a very youthful vibe despite tackling some darker topics, like wanting to escape the violence of humanity by turning into a prawn, as expressed in ‘The Prawn Song.’ The entire record seems to enjoy inserting as much humor as it can, like in the outro to ‘The Prawn Song,’ which features a heavily filtered, aristocratic-sounded announcer discussing how “prawns have a highly sophisticated social system / similar to that of bees or ants” before Naguchi comes in with a disinterested “prawn, prawn.” The entire exchange is almost ridiculous, but fits in with the core of the collective’s humorous aesthetic – though one could definitely argue that the humor takes away from the main message of the song.
With all of the tracks on the record being so loud and in-your-face, the one song that is markedly different from the rest is ‘Nai’s March.’ It starts out simply enough with a slow, soft verse singing of “Tokyo, oh Tokyo / I’m aware of the deadly presence,” but abruptly stops and moves into an awkward, fugue-like state with statements in Japanese, video game noises, and other distorted vocals. It’s the one part of the record that really doesn’t seem to fit in, as there seems to be less of a purpose for these different, weird sounds.
Despite an occasional misstep or two, Superorganism is a great debut from the collective, as well as a good example of what pop can sound like when pushed to its limits. Through this record, Superorganism is able to create a mess but successfully navigate through the clutter, taking us all on a pop-filled adventure that we may have never knew we needed.