Brooklyn is unseasonably cold, but Cameo Gallery is a sweltering abyss of hands and heat. It’s midnight at CMJ. The bass is so loud, you can feel it in your teeth. There’s sweat and glitter on your skin. You’re not sure how either became affixed to you so quickly. In between strobes, you see someone buried in a backpack and ball cap, politely squeezing past you and 200 others. She jumps onstage.
That someone is Lorely Rodriguez, the Honduran-American songstress who is better known as Empress Of, and royalty without question. With eyes bright and arms outstretched, she welcomed the crowd right into her soul. And like the string art installation crawling above her, her voice was dripping with light.
Dream pop can sometimes lack the shadowy corners where other genres make their home. But this is no blind spot for Empress Of. As the softly-snapping electronica lifted her like a cloud, she tethered her sound with eloquent darkness. “Crying is a crime, because you love to do it every time,” she sang with piercing veracity in “Realize You.”
She laid a wild mosaic of rhythms on songs like “Standard,” “Water Water,” and “Kitty Kat.” Throughout “Everything Is You” and “Need Myself,” she stretched her vocal range as smoothly as a cat arcs its back. Empress Of didn’t rush anything, and there was no need to. We would have listened until sunrise.
Article: Olivia Isenhart