By Eleanor Pahl, Correspondent
Chicago-based producer Billy Lemos’s newest album is a feature-packed hyperpop-fueled electronic journey. The ten-song album stands just 20 minutes in length yet manages to give Lemos ample time to fully explore his genre-bending sonic expression. Lemos steps away from his primary background in bedroom-pop chill beats to test out hip-hop, RnB, hyperpop, and glitchy electronica. Industry heavy-hitters like Still Woozy, Monsune, and Lava La Rue bring bright spots to “Wonder,” where Lemos expertly fashions atmospheres perfectly suited for the feature. The truly “ear-”catching album is brought down only by its brevity and occasional disorder.
“Always,” the first track on the album, provides an excellent introduction to the world Lemos is attempting to build within “Wonder.” The moment beat kicks in–just a few seconds into the song–is an incredible experience in hi-fi. Monsune, the Canadian indie/synth pop feature, comes in soon after with a soulful and smooth refrain. Monsune’s vocals are backed by unique percussive elements, which is a hidden strength of Lemos that becomes apparent over the course of the album. “Always” is not necessarily the strongest nor most vibrant track, but it serves as a good indicator of what Lemos is hoping to show listeners with “Wonder.”
Lemos shows great promise, creating vibrant, unexpected, and ever-changing soundscapes—if only they would last a bit longer. The majority of the songs on the album feel as if they have ended before they are given the chance to mature. The ultra-compressed songs give the album an almost mixtape-like quality, where Lemos barely begins to find an incredible groove before dashing to the next shiny track. Like a kid chasing a butterfly, Lemos wanders his way through the album without a clear sense of navigation or purpose. The album acts as a showcase for Lemos’s production talents, but the short songs and quick switch-ups between genres leaves listeners slightly lost.
“Wonder’s” most brilliant spots are often its most revelatory ones–instead of using the cop-out beat drop, Lemos brings songs to a point of haziness and then quickly pulls it all back to center. The clarity brought in these moments, most notably used in the tracks “Wonder” and “Playing Games,” is extremely satisfying and often an underused tool in the electronic genre.
The weakest moments, however, are an unfortunate and likely unintentional byproduct of Lemos’s fast-paced, energy-drink emboldened style. He built most tracks to be the sonic equivalent of MSG, blasting the ears with jam-packed mixes and an overabundance of satisfying production tricks. When Lemos attempts to toss in two back-to-back slower songs like “For Me” and “If You Won’t, I Will,” the subtlety just has no chance to compare to the soaring, intense highs of the other tracks. If Lemos were to set aside more time to explore the subtlety and give it the proper space and setting, it could be improved.
The single feature-less track on the LP, titled curiously “A T M,” is the conclusionary song. Lemos replaces vocal melodies with a heavy droning synth, fully allowing himself to take control of the track and showcase his breadth of talents in electronic music. Though his production alongside talented features is a guaranteed recipe for success, his solo work shows more promise for his future as an artist. If he is able to continue carrying his own weight without the assistance of a feature, his work will surely reach its full potential. “Wonder” is Lemos’s petite tour de force; one can only wonder what bigger, better aural worlds he will invent next.