FREE I.H.: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For, the new album-length mixtape from Illuminati Hotties (a.k.a. Los Angeles studio wiz Sarah Tudzin), is one of 2020’s most outrageously idea-stuffed releases to date. The self-produced songs whirl by in one- or two-minute bursts of melody and noise, creating the impression of an artist who’s having too much fun to stay in any one place for long. And while Tudzin seems to have made the album as a contract-fulfillment obligation for her label — hence the self-deprecating title and cover art — it’s the kind of record you can easily imagine winning a lot of new fans for her endlessly inventive jitterbug mind.
“Freequent Letdown,” the third song on FREE I.H. and one of several to play with the theme of freedom, is an instant highlight. It’s a song about being an aimless slacker who no one can count on, and it’s full of sarcastic self-owns: “I am no CEO/I’m not profession-a-a-a-l/I’m no bright Edison/Don’t know a thing about modern medicine,” Tudzin sings. Yet every moment of the song, from the little “mm-mm” hook at the beginning of each chorus to the crashing-wave chords to the expertly arranged backing vocals, feels inspired. Tudzin knows her way around a studio — as an engineer and producer, she’s worked on projects from the Hamilton soundtrack to Weyes Blood’s excellent-sounding 2019 album Titanic Rising — and you can hear it in the way she makes this song sparkle without losing any speed.
You want invention? She’ll give you invention. Tudzin spends FREE I.H. on a creative jag that recalls Guided By Voices in 1995 or Lil Wayne in 2007; it’s like she can barely get through one act of catchy, mischievous imagination before backflipping on to the next. She’s pleading for her label to let her go, but she already sounds plenty free in all the ways that count.
Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.