Photo: Jess Farran
"I don't know if I'll last until tomorrow / It's such an arduous task to always bottle it up," the words escape Gus Dapperton as equal parts confessional and forlorn wish. It is an emotional outpouring backed by delicate orchestration that sets the stage for the idiosyncratic artist's highly-anticipated sophomore album, Orca. This poignant push-and-pull between lush meticulously-crafted soundscapes and somber revelations is no mere outlier but soon becomes a defining trademark of what feels like Dapperton's coming-of-age.
First making a splash with dreamily produced singles like "I'm Just Snacking" and "Prune, You Talk Funny," Dapperton introduced himself as a master at combining nostalgic influences with a rapturous inventiveness. And while he feels just as daring in Orca as he did in his 2019 debut album Where Polly People Go To Read, there is a marked tonal shift toward self-reflective pastures.
From the outset, Orca feels remarkably restrained yet never does it feel like Dapperton has sacrificed his euphoric songwriting gift for introspection. Rather, tracks like "Post Humorous," with its glistening introduction and nearly-whispered introduction, show off a transcendent for exhilarating vulnerability. The track steadily moves from saunter to outright sprint, as the words "I confess the incandescence of a dying light / … Consume me through the night" convey the imagery of a firework ricocheting off into the night sky.
Orca's emotional tour-de-force continues in full effect in the latter half of the album, as "Grim" and "Antidote" arrive with a noted grit, shifting from discordant alternative outburst to ominous R&B number. The pairing makes what comes next feel all the more revolutionary. "Medicine," with its gentle key presses and swelling acoustic instrumentation, leads us into an unrivaled sonic and spiritual rebirth.
"Swan Song," Orca's closer, is a fitting send-off for Dapperton's empathic musings in more ways than one. Yes, it is a beautiful song meant to signal the curtain's closing, but here it presents "death" as not the end but a necessary change, "But I needed it to change (I do not regret it) / Yeah, I needed things to change (And I will not forget it)."
Dapperton has always felt unstuck in time, never quite belonging to one generation's genre norms or musical conventions. In Orca, he transforms that notion into a palpable emotional symphony that is impossible to forget.
Listen to Orca below: