Top Pops! May 2013: Royal Canoe, Empress Of, AM & Shawn Lee, Starlight Girls

“Pop music shouldn’t always get a bad rap,” says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you funkeh.


Empress Of – Systems EP (Terrible Records)
Brooklyn-based Empress Of is picking up where Blonde Redhead left off. With a little Twin Sister and a dash of Beach House for good measure, Empress Of features a strong female voice backed by slittery guitar lines and tingly electro-keyboards. It’s mystical and wandering, but also tightly put together. The one-woman project (the name behind the moniker is Lorely Rodriguez) has been getting quite the bit of internet buzz over the past few months. She caused a sensation with her YouTube video project “Colorminutes” (which was released on cassette tape soon after), but this EP is a proper release, and a nice introduction into her style. Systems is broken up into two sides; the first is in English (“Hat Trick” and “No Means No”) and the second is in Spanish (“Tristeza” and “Camisa Favorita”). For us single language speakers, the Spanish side is even more intriguing. A fun bonus is that even though she’s not so well-known, Empress Of has some friends in high places; there are already remixes of her song “Tristeza”, by El Guincho and Pional, and she just finished up a tour with Jamie Lidell. Definitely on the esoteric, creative end of the musical spectrum, it will be exciting to see more from Empress Of. Judy Nelson

Below are samples of “Hat Track” and “Tristeza”, in its original as well as remix versions.


Royal Canoe
Dude, take it from me… this Winnipeg-based sextet of multi-instrumentalist producers is going to be one of the next big things in the indie pop world. They’re shameless in their style, incorporating everything from rolling pop cadences that Justin Timberlake would approve of to whirling synth noises and lyrics about bathtubs. The question is why, and we’ll answer that with an in-depth interview with the band — one of the first substantial ones, I think; we’re getting in on the ground floor — which will be published before their record drops on June 25th on Roll Call Records. This record is incredible, and I can’t wait for those of you who like innovative pop music to hear it. Vivian Hua


AM & Shawn Lee
AM & Shawn Lee are so catchy that they make me a little bit suspicious. I should be working harder to enjoy music; it almost feels like a guilty pleasure to swallow things up this easily, as though AM & Shawn Lee are the reincarnation of The Beatles in disco-funk-pop form or something. To drive home this point is “All The Love” from their latest record on Park The Van Records, entitled La Musique Numerique; the track might seriously be in the upper echelon of summer dance jams for 2013. Vivian Hua

And as an added bonus, here’s “Two Times”:


Starlight Girls – “7×3”
The main selling point of Starlight Girls’ 7″ A-side, “7×3”, is that it features the production work of Xiu Xiu‘s Jamie Stewart — but it is fair to say that the song does just fine in selling itself. With trip-hop lethargy and light industrial sounds reverberating in the background, its percussive elements galore make it worthy of repeat listens. A fun additional fact includes their play on their name with a constellation-studded 7″ design that also glows in the dark, what what! The 7″ is out now on Brooklyn’s Ooh La La Records.


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