There’s power in eclecticism. Stemlines’ new LP, U R HERE, revels in both. Unbidden from genre norms or structural expectations, U R HERE is a declaration of Stemline’s place in the Atlanta music scene. The album comes on the heels of two already iconic singles, “XXNOSLO” (released just days before lockdown, and one of our favorite tracks from 2020) and “iWANT.” I’m excited to report that neither single could possibly prepare you for the twists and turns the record takes along the way.
Like a delicate fusion of Klein’s emotional textures and Smerz’s lopsided dark club sensibilities, Stemlines’ music is reminiscent of the heyday of Hyperdub compilations and UK underground. Where her debut self-titled EP was pensive, scenic, and exploratory, U R HERE is stubborn at every turn, wartorn and uncompromising. Gone are the slinky club synths of “Earned It”—they’ve been replaced with clamoring organs, elegiac flutes, and despondent vocals. The track-to-track experience is disparate and kaleidoscopic. Her soundscapes are moody and impressionistic. The atmosphere, though inconsistent, is immediate and palpable.
Though U R HERE is thorned with self-righteous fury, it feels like a reminder to always be the same. “You know I will pray for it,” she coos on “My Money.” Later, on “XXNOSLO,” we’re instructed to calm down, rest, breathe, and stretch, something of an interjected meditation session. These songs aren’t unkind; the album is as much a product of 2020 as we all are, and it espouses a philosophy of digging your feet in the ground as a form of self-care. “Nothing,” U R HERE’s stunning centerpiece, features Stemline’s voice delicately suspended by hushed breakbeats and blown-out ‘80s power guitar. It’s a stunning power ballad, and feels something like a distant cousin of SOPHIE’s legendary call-to-arms “It’s Okay To Cry.” Stemlines isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. She’s not afraid to be anything.
U R HERE is self-released and out today on streaming platforms