Published May 07, 2020In a recent interview with Exclaim!, Cecile Believe (a.k.a. Caila Thompson-Hannant, who used to perform as Mozart's Sister) described her new EP as "post-genre," saying, "I tried to leave the genre open and give a mood instead."
Similar assertions have been made by other artists attempting to shed the pop label, potentially as an attempt to set themselves apart from their contemporaries or have their work taken more seriously. While it can be argued that most music is now post-genre, it's easy to see why Thompson-Hannant made the distinction in regards to Made in Heaven, her first release as Cecile Believe. There's a peculiar and calculated inconsistency being presented throughout the nine tracks, a smart move for an artist looking to shed any preconceived ideas about their work. That being said, this new material isn't far removed from what Thompson-Hannant offered as Mozart's Sister, which is a good thing; that project never got the due it deserved, and its end felt premature
Thompson-Hannant's songwriting remains one of her greatest strengths, perfectly toeing the line between explicit and opaque while preserving an evocativeness that made her a not-so-secret weapon on SOPHIE's debut opus Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides. It's actually hard not to detect some of SOPHIE's influences on tracks like "7PM," whose trance-lite production never seems to live up to the lyrical content. Production-wise, the 90-second "Accretion Disk Edit" that follows hints to some bolder experimentation, which beautifully materializes on some of the EP standouts: the soft instrumentals of "Yellowjacket" and the drum and bass of "Living My Life Over." The diversity of Thompson-Hannant's vocal delivery, which ranges from wearied crooner on "Dissociation" to quietly desperate sultry virtual assistant on stand-out "Pick Up the Phone," is another high point of Made in Heaven.
Where the release falters slightly is on tracks like the single "Last Thing He Said to Me in Person," which feels like a pastiche of current radio trends and Thompson-Hannant's own discography. Maybe Thompson-Hannant's recent move to Los Angeles is manifesting in some of the sheen that threatens overwhelms the song, a single you could easily imagine being written for Rihanna. But by the time you reach album closer "Already Come," which binds some of the release's more disparate parts nicely while acting as a fitting bookend with opener "Made in Heaven," the misstep feels intentional. Ultimately, Made in Heaven is a felicitous introduction to Cecile Believe, laying the groundwork for what feels will become a freer and more fulfilling project. (Independent)