The first song on American indie rocker Indigo de Souza’s new album Any Shape You Take is a jarring shift away from the charmingly scuzzy and shoegaze rock and roll that made up her previous material. Instead of her signature voice, which lies somewhere between a punk rock scream and a yodel, there’s a robotic vocal modulator. Instead of driving rock and roll, there’s an electronic dance track. Instead of Pavement, de Souza sounds closer to Owl City.
Any Shape You Take finds de Souza remarkably comfortable with alternating between embracing and abandoning her signature sound. Every time you feel like you’re getting lost in the experimentation of ’17’, ‘Real Pain’, or ‘Hold U’, songs like ‘Darker Than Death’, ‘Bad Dream’, and ‘Way Out’ remind you of what initially brought you to de Souza.
It would be a different story if the experimentation wasn’t as captivating as it is. ‘Real Pain’ is easily one of de Souza’s best songs, retaining her driving rock and roll sound while weaving in collages of abstract sound to create expansive, terrifying, and completely unique soundscapes. As the ever-ascending cacophony of noises crescendos with frightening fervour and the screams reach their peak, they suddenly drop away, and de Souza finishes the song proper. A flip turn to party rock is not what this album has in store for you.
It’s not like de Souza has made an entire dance-pop album, or even an album that could accurately be placed in that genre. Whenever she breaks away from the mould, the DNA of indie rock is still there. But it’s refreshing to hear an artist so freely unbothered by expectation or outside influence. No matter what instruments are played or style it is weaved in, Any Shape You Take feels like it comes from the unique perspective and viewpoint of a singular artist.
The lyrics are perhaps the major holdover from her earlier work, and they act as both a connector to the past and proper identifier that ties all of her inclinations, past and present, into a cohesive illustration of de Souza’s talents. Her mother gets a shout out, she openly discusses mental illness and anxiety, and there are plenty of relationships that turn sour, whether they’re bittersweet like on ‘Pretty Pictures’ or shambolic like on ‘Die/Cry’. De Souza might be experimenting with the style of her voice, but the intent and purpose in her songwriting hasn’t lost any of its power.
The album’s first single actually ends up being the closing track, ‘Kill Me’. It remains the closest tie to her first album, I Love My Mom: quiet-loud dynamic, scratchy guitars, shout-along vocal lines. When it was first released, I thought that ‘Kill Me’ was indicative of Any Shape You Take being a continuation of I Love My Mom. In parts, it certainly is, but it’s far more than a retread or a doubling down on what worked so well for de Souza the first time around.
Whether it’s by embracing the fuzzy indie rock that she has made her name on up to this point or the forward-looking styles and sounds she adopts throughout the record, de Souza makes a strong case for herself as one of the brightest and most exciting young rock stars currently ascending the indie scene. Any Shape You Take is a triumph of individual expression, one that makes de Souza harder and harder to ignore as she continues to wonderfully stand out from the dull and repetitive landscape of modern indie music. With any luck, she’s on her way to bigger and better things soon.