The Los Angeles singer’s whole songwriting vibe is magnetic, blending future pop, bedroom pop, and funk into a new and colorful swirl.
Remi Wolf has a bright, gamboling sensibility that extends from her music to her record titles to the way she presents herself and her work. Her ecstatic single “Woo!”, from her new five-song EP …And I’m Allergic To Dogs, is an “explosion of my feelings on LOVE,” she told Clash magazine. And Wolf has a whole cache of it judging not only by her joyful, sultry, playful new record but by her whole thing. It was clear even from her appearance on American Idol at 17, where she sang “Let’s Get It On” to Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr. not long after pivoting from training to be an Olympic skier. Wolf shied from the Idol-type path, though her expressive soul chops could certainly have carried her all the way.
Wolf exists at the center of a Venn diagram that includes the post-PC Music hyper pop contingent (like Rina Sawayama and Wolf’s friend and collaborator Alice Longyu Gao), feel-good, “lo-fi,” “bedroom” pop artists (like JAWNY and Still Woozy, also friends of Wolf’s) and the current wave of funk and disco (like Ric Wilson and Ian Isiah). Her music clicks all the trend boxes, yet it feels super fresh. There’s a lot going on in the pop world right now, but Wolf has managed to nail all the fashionable references without losing her own sound. She’s cited Chaka Khan, Daryl Hall, David Byrne, Michael McDonald, John Mayer, and Erykah Badu as influences. There’s some reggae in here, too, on “Hello Hello Hello,” about “a certified gambler” who’s playing with Wolf’s feelings from the opposite coast, and the celebratory nature of her music at times recalls early ’90s dance hits from Deee-Lite and C+C Music Factory. Wolf’s music begs for remixes (Free Nationals’ “Photo ID” one is great) and the closeness of a club or a barbecue.
Wolf’s puckish vibe is highly endearing. …And I’m Allergic To Dogs is her proper debut EP on Island, and a follow-up of sorts to her first EP, You’re A Dog!, which came out last September. (Wolf is in fact allergic to dogs, and yet she recently bought a puppy.) In the EP’s opening track, “Down The Line,” she references OutKast’s “Hey Ya” and at one point there’s a puppy bark and a baby’s squeal. She recently told The Line of Best Fit she’s been inspired by the silliness and absurdity of kids’ shows—there’s something about the freedom of childhood-informed expression that gives Wolf’s music its unhampered feel. She has a sense of humor about herself.
The playfulness pairs well with the intrinsic sexiness of Wolf’s rhythms, even if her lyrics sometimes border on nonsensical. She annotated the Genius page of her own record to note You’re A Dog! was created in various bedrooms across California, all while she was “sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, and most times angry.” I love this summation because she speaks to the way this kind of punchy pop music can encapsulate a whole range of emotions while remaining what it is: really fun. It is possible to make a banging, exuberant pop song while full of rage or disappointment. “You’re so mean/But I can’t dream without you,” Wolf sings, her vocals pitched-up, on “Photo ID,” which was co-written with Solange collaborator John Carroll Kirby. The song snaps, zips, and fizzes with funk verve. It makes me wanna shake my ass. The whole EP does.
The energy never really dips—it’s lowest on “Hello Hello Hello,” perhaps the EP’s weakest moment, but not by far. And although it’s cool when Wolf distorts her voice, it’s much better when you can hear the depth of her vocals, the emotion in her voice, like on “Woo!” or “Disco Man,” which is particularly passionate, as she sings about a man who’s “wasted all his money” but has “never been a waste of time,” and can decidedly “kiss [her] hand.” Above all, Wolf’s clear sense of herself is what makes her music really work. You can almost picture her, like a collage artist, going galaxy brain with all her references and kooky found sounds. There’s nothing exactly new happening here, but the deftness with which Wolf wields her voice, and guides what could be a too-chaotic sound into precise pop magic, is remarkable.
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