Pop experimentalist Empress Of has her sophomore album on the way, and from the sounds of its first single, the effervescent “When I’m With Him,” it sounds like it will be her most straightforward effort to date. The song, which has the dusty, throwback appeal of a Dev Hynes production (Empress Of produced the track herself, alongside Jim-E Stack and Dan Nigro, but was a guest vocalist on Blood Orange’s 2016 album Freetown Sound) paired with a overpowering chorus that’s among the best things she’s ever written.
While “When I’m With Him” is likely the most straightforwardly musically appealing songs Empress Of has written to date — her music is usually characterized by sharp edges and daring choices, rather than the pop maximalism on display here — she’s not quite writing a simple love song. The lyrics are dark and claustrophobic, and the switch to Spanish during the second chorus is an unexpected, welcome shift (outside of the chorus hook, it’s the catchiest part of the song). Even when she’s making something that seems like it could be a sleeper hit on the charts, Empress Of displays an impressive dedication to trying new, subversive things.