King Princess is laying it all bare on her sophomore release; refusing to adhere to the realms of cookie-cutter indie-pop, ‘Hold On Baby’s tender instrumentals and pulsing dance beats perfectly capture the confusion, euphoria and frustration that comes with being human. It’s a release that refuses to drown in its sultry self-pity, but still honours it – resulting in a cathartic, immensely intimate confessional piece.
Opening track ‘I Hate Myself, I Want To Party’ immediately sets the tone; its gentle soundscaping and honest lyrics welcome you into Mikaela Straus’ mind, serving as a blessing, a confirmation that it’s okay to take a peek behind the curtains. It’s an incredibly self-aware soundtrack of self-limitation, painful desire bubbling just beneath the surface – all before bursting into a transformative cry of “I don’t wanna live like that.”
This level of self-awareness only carries on throughout the rest of ‘Hold On Baby’. There’s a heightened level of maturity on this release, Straus slowly trying to comprehend relationships and her place in the world. Tracks like the glitzy, embittered ‘Cursed’ coolly reflects on draining friendships, while stand-out track ‘Little Bother’ yet again reflects on exhausting connections amidst its synth-infused pop excellence.
Love is undoubtedly the central theme on of this release. As the pulsing beat of the anthemic ‘For My Friends’ unfolds, the anthemic cries of “loving me takes patience” take hold. Even the twangy, Western-tinged attitude of ‘Too Bad’ sees Straus croon out “my God is it hard to be loved.” Yet, without skipping a beat, Straus takes a moment to add – “but that’s life.”
Perhaps the most compelling moments come in ‘Hold On Baby’s more exposed tracks. ‘Winter Is Hopeful’ feels like a spy into Straus’ diary, a tenderly scrawled love-note drowning in candour, bouncing along on a luscious, syrup-y thick R&B-infused beat. While ‘Crowbar’ takes things a step further, a fly-on-the-wall dose of vulnerability; Straus whispers into your ear, exposed and simple, the lyrics and vocals at the forefront.
Outside of the overt vulnerability this release is rammed with hard-hitting, brutal bangers that transcend genre. ‘Dotted Lines’ is a sonic spit in the face, it’s punchy, club-ready beat sharp as Straus cries “it feels like I’m breaking, but I’m just tryna make it out”, while ‘Sex Shop’ highlights Straus’ penchant for massive pop sounds and distortion. The album even closes on an indie-rock guitar banger, ‘Let Us Die’s unhinged lyrics and vocals a perfect climax of frustration.
‘Hold On Baby’ perfectly builds upon the sound King Princess forged for herself on her 2019 debut. Packed with personality and innovative sounds, this is an incredibly strong release. As the title-track interlude jokes, Straus is “a clown that needs attention…” and we definitely think you should heed her words – King Princess is crafting sounds that most definitely deserve your time.
Words: Emily Swingle