Four years on from her debut, the Lesbian Jesus herself is rising once again. While 2020 EP ‘I’m Too Sensitive For This Shit’ teased us with some new tracks, the full-length return of Hayley Kiyoko comes in a starry-eyed haze of easy-going, electro-pop. With its darker textures and more mature sound, ‘PANORAMA’ feels like an evolutionary step forward for Kiyoko – however there is still room for her sound to grow.
‘PANORAMA’ thrives when it’s dishing out those totally sunkissed anthems. Perhaps the greatest example of this comes in the form of ‘for the girls’ – what we are inclined to call ‘Girls Like Girls’ darker older sibling. As Kiyoko’s sultry vocals croon out “summer’s for the girls…”, beat intoxicating, you can’t help but revel in the track’s thick beat.
Elsewhere, that summer-y energy is also captured on the likes of ‘well…’ and ‘sugar at the bottom’.
‘well…’ is a summer-ready banger, a glistening cry of bittersweet synth-heavy bliss as Hayley Kiyoko crying “I know I’m doing well – as far as I can tell I’m doing better than you!” Opening track ‘sugar at the bottom’ also serves as a summer-y dose of venom, its staccato synths devilishly cool, Kiyoko’s sharp-tongued as ever as she sings “I’m so glad you’re someone else’s problem”.
Synths very much seem to be the album’s backbone, a key texture throughout. From the dark, spine-tingling Stranger Things-like analogue of ‘found my friends’, to the scaling synths of ‘chance’, to the bleary-eyed autotune of club-ready ‘underground’, the synthetic sounds are in full-swing. Although there is a clear effort to switch up the mood, at times the textures at play can feel repetitive, however. Tracks sometimes meld into one – easy on the ear, and definitely pleasing to listen to, but it does leave you wishing for some more sharp, punchy moments.
Overlooking the synths, Kiyoko has also amped up the vulnerability this time round, and those moments are definitely a delicate treat. ‘supposed to be’ is gorgeously soft as Hayley Kiyoko admits “only you could make me this lonely”, a profoundly nostalgic heartbreak anthem, while the stand-out beauty of title-track ‘panorama’ serves up a soaring, tumbling barrage of instrumentals, Kiyoko reflecting “what’s wrong with me?”
While ‘PANORAMA’ at times feels repetitive, there’s certainly moments that smoulder with passion, sparkling with Kiyoko’s signature charm. The release undoubtedly subverts our ‘Expectations’ following Hayley Kiyoko’s debut, the more mature sound and lyricisms definitely a shift in tone. We can only hope the star continues to fine-tune this new sound, as there’s definitely an experimental spark waiting to grow into a full-blown blaze.
Words: Emily Swingle