In an increasingly atomised society still hopelessly wedded to the ‘cult of the individual’, the unifying spell of introspection wrought by a world in lockdown and existential uncertainty seemed to dismantle the cast-iron doctrines of unbridled individualism and competitive strife. As fragments of the social contract were rekindled and repaired, clarity, perspective and priorities were realised in the great fog of rumination that followed Capital’s grinding halt.
“Everything I need is right inside of me” is as bold and self-affirmative a statement can get among the global wave of epiphanies, succinctly promoting self-worth in a milieu of encouraged, consumer insecurity. Being the chorus of last year’s ‘Inside’, Doll Klaw teased the release of her new EP with a taster of her new sonic direction and spirit of reclaimed empowerment. The alias of L.A. artist Jessica Caro, Doll Klaw moves away from the caustic post-punk of 2018’s Battery Tongue in favour of shimmering, rich production and deeper excavations of her soul.
Despite being written and recorded before the global pandemic, Thorns feels uncannily born from the contemporary contemplation that haunts the air. Caro opens the EP with a paean to personal growth on the wistful ‘Vermin’, a pensive reflection on the difficult journey to better oneself shrouded in glimmering dream pop textures. Lament and sorrow drift into the second track ‘Angelica’, a mournful mediation of the painful loss of a childhood friend that’s given ethereal ascendency by rich, baroque arrangements straight out of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Architecture & Morality, its romantic waltz also colouring the stinging ‘You Said’.
Caro can cut a lean strip of strutting menace when necessary. ‘Inside’ is expert, darkwave synthpop, a restless swagger of electro-stomp and pulsing keys scoring the emphatic extolling of invigorated purpose unobstructed by dead-end boyfriends, and an obvious choice as lead single. The title track takes an even crunchier turn, gritty synth basslines lifted from classic Depeche Mode immersed in choral washes, an intriguing clash of serene verses and ominous detours that end the EP on an aural and thematic note of trepidation that’s never too far away from discovery.
In a crowded synth scene that can often be clogged with generic derivativity, Doll Klaw firmly places herself on the crest of new wave pop that’s vital and bristling with ideas. Thorns is a thrilling and majestic statement from an artist that looks set to cast L.A. under her spell and speaks to the ruminative climate with moving prescience.