Olivia Merilahti steps into the darkness on her debut album...

What to do after The Dø? That’s the question Olivia Merilahti asks on her debut record, 'Beginnings', seven years after the demise of her indie-rock band with their 2014 album 'Shake Shook Shaken'. Merilahti dons the stage name Prudence to deliver an album that indulges in sweaty, sleazy synthpop inspired by icons such as Suzanne Ciani and Kraftwerk. But Prudence might have unintentionally lived up to her name judging by the restricted, underplayed tone across the album.

The album is at its strongest when Merilahti focuses on having fun. Lead single, ‘Good Friends’, is a shameless ode to nightclub lovers, paired with the obligatory thumping bassline and elevated by bright, bouncy chords. It’s clear that ‘Good Friends’ has had the most time poured into its crafting; it’s the cleanest, most balanced-sounding out of the tracklist. ‘Offenses’ begins with a mysterious arpeggiated synth riff that descends into a trap banger, as Merilahti sings a sweet melodic line above. The sounds of 80s pop mesh fantastically with contemporary pop rhythms, without sounding too cloying.

There are moments where the album tries too hard to appear youthful or relatable; this is awkwardly obvious on ‘Pretty’. Merilahti attempts to inhabit the world of dating apps that reduces people into ‘sex, ready-made’, but the narrative feels too cliché to get its message across. ‘Pretty’ features some smart production choices such as Merilahti’s voice blurring in and out of AutoTune, unable to distinguish what is reality and what isn’t. However, the swung, rap-singing flow of the chorus combined with the melancholic, languorous pacing turns this takedown of modern dating culture into an over-cautionary tale.

Ironically, for an album so concerned with love and physicality, most songs lack the sexual tension that would really make it pop. ‘Playmate’ has the potential to be a cheeky serenade, but the chorus is delivered too nasally for anyone to take it seriously: "I just wanna challenge yaaaa..." ‘More Love Don’t Go Home’ is a sultry track anchored by Merilahti’s agile vocals. The rising strings and rumbling bass give the song much-needed pep, but the regurgitated lyrics ("We’re up all night/doing the right thing") can’t keep up with the atmospheric instrumentals.

'Beginnings' is derived from some heavy retro-tronic sounds and aesthetics, but it doesn’t lean into them enough to establish an identity or an individual approach. Whilst it’s a passable introduction to Merilahti’s new sound, it doesn’t offer anything new or exciting about her musical philosophy or her life.


Words: Alex Rigotti

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