It took Mykki Blanco years to bloom into their current arc. After almost a decade of putting out raucous, multi-modal hip-hop collections, the artist’s sound softened and brightened for 2021’s Broken Hearts and Beauty Sleep. The LP that followed, 2022’s gorgeous, guest-spangled Stay Close to Music, deepened Blanco’s range even further. Joined by the likes of Saul Williams, Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, and Anohni, Blanco luxuriated in introspection, juxtaposing playful club romps like “Ketamine” with clear-eyed musings on queerness, Blackness, and femininity, like “Carry On” and “Your Feminism Is Not My Feminism.” Their latest release, Postcards From Italia, features six songs recorded in the same rush as their past two albums, continuing their prismatic collaboration with producer FaltyDL. Clocking in at just 16 minutes, Postcards is light, lush, and streaked with intermittent melancholy. It hits like a breeze on a top-down drive along the Mediterranean coast.
With bright, crisp guitars and shuffling beats, Postcards edges closer to classic rock’n’roll than Blanco’s ever taken us before, replete with the genre’s originating burst of sexual delight. Opener “Magic on My Back” layers multiple eras of rock’s historical resonance. A Bo Diddley guitar strum flowers over a wobbling bass line that immediately summons up Lou Reed’s tribute to the trans girls of 1970s New York, “Walk on the Wild Side,” itself a warm but muted rehash of 1950s rock’n’roll ingredients. And then, at the fore of the mix, a punchy kick-snare drum pattern calls in “Wild Side”’s 1990 reinvigoration as a sample in the hands of A Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It?” All those decades coalesce to set the stage for one of Blanco’s most joyful, exuberant tracks to date, a song about sex so good the whole world floods with pleasure. “You do it slow/Can’t help but smile,” they sing on two simultaneous vocal tracks, playing both the smooth, sultry backup singer and the charismatic, off-the-cuff bandleader.
Darker, more ambivalent notes waft through the middle of the EP, though the production’s sheen never dulls. Across a handful of mostly bite-sized tracks, Blanco considers all the ways people can fall out of synch with each other, even while standing in the glow of real love. The twinkling R&B ballad “Love Fell Down Around Me” renders a breakup through precise, tactile details: “Your tears on blue jeans/My coffee on the living room floor.” On the hazy, psychedelic “Just a Fable,” Blanco sings about kissing a tearful white lover in the midst of the 2020 uprisings after the killing of George Floyd. “It was a fable of the city/It was a fable of the U.S.A.,” they sing over a bounding bass line. The vignette collapses and expands its scale from thousands of people in the streets to two people in a room and back again—intimacy huddled inside a world-historical movement, ballooning to the size of myth.
The EP’s closing bookend “Holidays in the Sun” spikes the BPM to a club pulse. William Eaves’ production calls back to the blunt abandon of flash-in-the-pan Eurodance acts like Haddaway and La Bouche, whose maximal sound ricocheted back to the United States with comic frisson during the mid-’90s. Blanco’s pitch-shifted voice swings across the song’s title in a repeatedly triggered sample; on the verses, they curl their consonants to affect a country drawl. Blanco has always approached their vocals with a generous sense of play, quick to don and shed exaggerated characters on a dime, and their Eurodance persona is no different. “I believe in love and I believe in going hard,” they proclaim over the dance floor in a hypnotic Sprechstimme. The beat throbs, incessant, leading all the loose threads and fractured hearts throughout the EP to sweet release.