On 2019’s 2nd, Grace Ives debuted her take on synth-pop – stringing together a series of programmed instrumentals that seemed to support her as a singer more out of necessity than purpose. What Ives made was really bedroom pop, and each track benefited from a sort of DIY charm, one where the tracks would float by briskly and the album would wrap up in less than a half-hour. She left plenty of room for growth and on her follow-up, Janky Star, Ives is able to pour her talents onto a slightly larger canvas.
Her melodies are still here, and so is her off-the-cuff brevity. These tracks are only slightly longer, but each one sounds more thought-out, and more adept at their individual focus. The synths and instrumentation play less as demo accompaniments but instead, are as important to the structure as Ives herself. Take the chipmunk vocal breakdown on “Back In LA”, not only does it sound professional and warranted, but it carries with it the same blissful naivete that can easily be sacrificed as a result. Ives’ ability to employ her charisma towards more lofty goals runs through the rest of the album as well, perhaps most notably on her most successful pop outing yet. At the very end of the record she backloads “Lullaby”, an ingenious and loose piece propelled by a busy drum machine and some bleating synths. It’s as immediate as Ives has allowed herself to be and a demonstration of just how far she’s come in her song craft.
Janky Star is still a small record, one that still pulls towards the end of a night out instead of the beginning. Unlike 2nd though, the size of the record comes from Ives’ intimacy more than her scale and abilities, and because of that, feels more inviting and encompassing than it actually is. Ives may have teased an even more outright move towards the middle of “Lullaby” but until then, she’s already proved she doesn’t need to hide behind any lo-fi aesthetics, she’s the real deal.