Like a season of High Maintenance or that one episode of Master of None, MICHELLE’s debut album HEATWAVE is a love letter to NYC; “more like a collection of stories than one overarching narrative.” MICHELLE is the project of Charlie Kilgore and Julian Kaufman, with vocals and songwriting courtesy of Jamee Lockard, Layla Kuriloff, Isa Reyes, Sofia D’Angelo, Emma Lee, Rix Chan, and Aidan Ludlam. Claiming to be more than just another bedroom pop project, MICHELLE spent two summer weeks crafting the songs on HEATWAVE in Julian’s bedroom, just after finishing their first year at college. Within each track, MICHELLE captures “snapshots of youth in a New York summer, all immediately recognizable to those who’ve lived them.”
The opening track “GET OFF UR PHONE” is a criticism of our generation’s obsession with phones that doesn’t come off as stodgy or distant. The track embodies the frustration of someone whose date won’t get off Snapchat, or the oddness of organizing your social life around group chats. The song addresses our age’s uneasiness with social media, like its creepiness—“don’t show your location, keep it to yourself”—and rejects its artificiality: “tryin’ to get connected, I don’t need no Wi-Fi.” The track’s subtle orchestration fits the song perfectly - a melody like a dial tone repeats throughout the piece; “hello, hello” echoes quietly in the background.
Romance courses through HEATWAVE in songs like “LOVE UR NAME” and “STUCK ON U”, albeit in different forms. “LOVE UR NAME” is sweet and ballad-y, about that moment you admit you like someone and hope they feel the same. “STUCK ON U”, the catchiest song on the album, is a clever ode to summertime in the city, smoothly drawing comparisons between a summer fling and New York: “Wish I could say goodbye but no, I’m stuck on you.” It’s not strictly a love song - more like a love/hate song, with complaints like having “only satellites to wish upon”. The track combines electronic beats with jazzy piano riffs that sound deceptively simple. It could have gone on a minute longer. Be sure to check out the music video for “STUCK ON U”, which was filmed, directed, edited, and animated by Aural Wes’ Manny Unger.
HEATWAVE embodies feelings wrapped up in a time and place, instead of a clear storyline. “IDEAL” feels like a fever dream, opening as wishful thinking about the ‘ideal’ summer fling: “Kissin’ by the fountain in the moonlight”. Sweet, right? Abruptly it shifts to a weirder version of an escapist fantasy, featuring a sound bite of someone rejecting the rat race to join the rats. It’s bizarre and just odd enough to jolt you out of the smooth dreamlike quality of the rest of the album.
Overall, HEATWAVE tracks span a wide stylistic area without losing the overarching feel of the record. “MANGO” has a sexy, bossa nova vibe, while “THE BOTTOM” would fit in as dance pop, and you could find “KIP” playing at a jazz club. In other words, the album defies strict genre categorization, surprising you in each track with an attractive mix of electronic and acoustic instrumentation.
-Irene Westfall and Allison Hsu