In approaching ‘Near Life Experience: Part 1’, L Devine claims that she wanted to explore all the corners of pop – a bold and arguably tricky endeavour. Instead of honing one sound, the Newcastle artist’s latest EP deliberately plays like a collection of distinctive singles rather than a cohesive body of work. In the process she covers a lot of ground, shifting from the deft nu-disco favoured by the likes of Dua Lipa, Shura and Jessie Ware (most evident on the pulsating ‘Naked Alone’) to ‘Off the Grid’s gleaming (if slightly predictable) reggaeton-lite beats.
Though L Devine’s voice shines clearly in certain lyrical moments – ’Girls Like Sex’ expertly takes precise aim at lazy heteronormative narratives – she treads less in the way of new musical ground. Sometimes ‘Near Life Experience: Part 1’ can feel like a protracted game of ‘guess the influence’ – ’Wish That You Saw Me’, for instance, sounds so uncannily like a Tove Lo B-side that the thought soon becomes impossible to escape.
It also speaks volumes, however, that these kinds of high-calibre pop names come to mind as points of comparison. Even if ‘Near Life Experience: Part 1’ sometimes follows the sonic pack, these are still strong, slickly-produced songs that are leaps and bounds ahead of L Devine’s previous releases. Atop slapping bass, ‘Naked Alone’ is a gleeful celebration of casual sex – even if obtaining it actually proves trickier than a few half-arsed Tinder swipes. After rampantly scrolling through her contacts for potential bedfellows, L Devine’s narrator is left unfathomably horny and quite annoyed. “I can’t even get one text back,” she complains. “All I really need is some sex, you feel me?”
‘Be In Her Bedroom’, a long-standing live favourite, nails the brief of being a slightly obsessive unrequited love song perfectly, as L Devine sings about trying on all of her crush’s clothes in secret and clutching onto “the pillow she lays on”. The breezy ‘Girls Like Sex’, meanwhile, shoots for bop-ville and doesn’t miss. “Shut the fuck up and just kiss my neck,” L Devine demands – it’s the boldest and most concise pop song she’s ever written.
Whenever L Devine’s wit collides with her obvious and forensic knowledge of contemporary pop music, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Ultimately, ‘Near Life Experience: Part 1’ serves up enough immediate earworms that it’s easy enough to forgive the odd derivative lull.
Release date: July 30
Release label: Warner Records