There is no anonymity to be found on Devan’s perfect pop EP, Liquid Sunshine.
Lowkey doesn’t really suit Devan Glover. Because folks, her voice? It’s big. When singing with her band, Wild Rivers, Glover’s voice is like a mountain at the foot of a folksy forest: its presence is such that it makes anything around it sound small. That is true of her way-more-popular-than-you-may-realize band and her debut solo EP from earlier in the year, Pink Noise. On her second EP of 2021 as Devan, though, she’s found a winning musical formula to compliment her extraordinary vocals and has stepped up her lyrical game to boot.
From go, Liquid Sunshine is arresting and propulsive. “Orchid” begins with moody piano chords, a scene-setting verse and a dry vocal as Devan sings about the state of a stale relationship. But then, the pre-chorus arrives and the song — and Devan’s sound in general — blooms. A snare hits and we are off into the bounciest, most upbeat pop chorus she has ever penned. Her voice is layered and warped, only making her sound bigger. This is not CBC Radio-core (although!); this is festival-sized pop packaged for playlists, where the hooks are as big as Devan’s voice. The hooks are distinctly Devan, and the production is top-notch and subtle, never competing with Devan’s voice, always complementing. “Feel Better,” perhaps the EP’s strongest track (but honestly, it could be any one of them), is an ode to standing by while a loved one goes through a tough time. It succeeds by not languishing in the stasis of a depression but by pushing through it with a big singalong chorus and electronic breakdown at the end. It’s a dance party after a big cry; a ray of sunlight peeking through the clouds after days of rain.
The entire EP functions this way, and therefore, avoids the familiar trappings of so much “sad girl” pop music that litters playlists with names like “indie pop & chill” or “sad girl starter pack”. Every song, at some point, takes off. “nascar” functions perfectly well as a laid-back acoustic soul song, but it comes to life when the beat drops for the bridge. This track, set in New York City 2015, is also a prime example of Devan’s lyrical strength, as she weaves through the death throes of another (the same? See, intrigue!) stale relationship. “Lookin’ back you say it was the best now / Twenty dollar drinks I’m feeling left out / Hated all your slightly sexist friends / I felt like I had to try pretending for you,” she sings, making you feel like you were there in that probably-cool New York bar too.
Liquid Sunshine succeeds as pop music because listening to it makes you feel like you know Devan. There is no anonymity to be found here. Whether it be the unique blend of influences (“Without You” sounds like a mix between Avril Lavigne and Frank Ocean, so uhh, more of that please), the impressive vocal runs and sticky hooks, or the details that make you want to know more, this is Devan figuring out her sound and herself. The EP’s final song, “Lighter,” is Devan emerging from the darkness she has spent the last five songs exploring and fighting against, with every tempo shift and breakdown. The future, it seems, is shining bright for Devan.
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