When I Blame Coco released The Constant in 2010, there was no legitimate evidence that the album would be as exhilarating and excellent as it was. As a matter of fact, the entire project had plenty of evidence that it would be run of the mill cookie cutter garbage. The album cover featured main woman Eliot Sumner staring awkwardly into the sky looking crisp and beautifully Photoshopped like a Mandy Moore reissue. Sumner was signed to a major at 17, her father is Sting, and the entire record had not one, not two, but 10 major studio producers- a surefire sign that Island Music was putting a big budget on this perfectly manufactured pop teen idol and banking on it working in the right markets. I am a cynic in the sense that this music had no right to be good, especially since it was being billed so transparently as any teen pop idol with a grunge against immature boys and the songwriting muscle of 2.5 million dollars worth of industry producers.
But I was sorely wrong, because I Blame Coco’s 2010 debut “The Constant” was a fully lavished body of work, capitalizing on the synthpop wave yet doing so in a way that was fresh and invigorating. A lot of this had to do with Sumner’s voice. It had this deep drawl, and her hipster personification was not obnoxious, for some odd reason, but endearing. Fool me once with Ellie Goulding and shame on you. Fool me again and I deserve it. Sumner seemed sincerely naïve and just shocked by her popularity. She embraced the fashion sense not as a forced slave but a willing participant, even when record label executives asked Sting to get her from out of the Abercrombie & Fitch cash register and into the audition space.
I Blame Coco, sort of disappointingly, is re-branding herself as Eliot Sumner. But the change is mostly aesthetic. The band moniker worked to fit into that synthy indie rock mold, but with this new step she is embracing herself as a brand- which can be tricky.
But at the end of the day, the music is the most important thing. Marketing is a separate entity entirely, and I am all for great music being marketed in frustratingly transparent and condescending ways. Because I believe that great music will stand the test of time and bad music will not. Exceptions sneak in, but this sifting process is culturally driven, not industry driven. Eliot Sumner is prepping the release of her 2014 EP “Information” with a follow-up sophomore record.
The title track for the record is the best thing she has ever done. It is a 7 minute escapade of high reaching electronic flourishes reminiscent of an MGMT or The Naked and Famous hook. But the song is not nearly as shallow and dumb as it so easily could have been. Lyrically, it is just gorgeous. It is one of those big pop songs that can be placed on loop with no shame or pandering that tends to pop up from mainstream early 20’s artists and their obnoxious run at long-term relevance.
Eliot Sumner has swagger and confidence, and all the evidence is there that this metamorphosis will work. A 7 minute introduction to the EP takes guts. A four to five year gap between studio albums is impressively long-standing, meaning she really put some cognitive focus here. And her re-branding obviously shows she is ready to progress forward in a way that means more than dropping a $ symbol or releasing generic pop to appease a ravenous base of disloyal teens.
Featured Image Photo Credit: http://macieksurowiak.com
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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