A triumphant sophomore effort, BATTLESCARS is everything that you could want from an experimental pop album in 2022. Choosing to open the album with thunderous instrumental cut ‘19’, aydan makes it very clear that they’ve levelled their sound up from their first full-length 18. A year older and wiser, the singer-producer now explores sounds in the farthest reaches of the hyperpop stratosphere (and far beyond).
‘Wanna Say’ displays clear influence from artists such as SOPHIE and Arca, deconstructed club rhythms propelling the song to body-contorting new heights. aydan self-describes a lot of their music as grime-pop, and on ‘Money’ the grimey part really starts to show itself. A ridiculous rave-pop banger, the track dives deeper and deeper into a bassy apocalypse with each every second that it assaults the listener. The mid-section of the album is definitely the most intense, as ‘Alcoholic’ continues the themes of hedonism in even more dramatic fashion. ‘In My Head’ brings this to a head, introducing BATTLESCARS’ first guest appearance in the form of mothgirl. moth joins aydan for ghostly, screamed harmonies that achieve an immense feeling of catharsis as they melt into the song’s chaotic dubstep instrumental.
From here things peter out to be slightly less aggressive, but no less memorable and ambitious. ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ is described as an ‘oh fuck’ moment by the artist, and indeed it does convey the feeling of a musical Road to Damascus with aydan and dreamgoth’s trap-inspired beat sounding nightmarish and heavenly in equal measure. ‘Unconforming God’ is more of a musical fuck you that sees aydan refuse to conform to ‘bullshit standards’. Proudly displaying their ‘non-binary vision’, aydan and guest artist Nachi deliver some of the only straight up rapping on the project.
The last four songs wholeheartedly embrace a hyperpop sound, with ‘Feel Good’ in particular capturing some of BATTLESCARS’ most positive lyrical content with an incredibly strong rave-inspired beat backing it. It is fascinating to see aydan’s personal experiences with events like these bleed into their work, and this album is a brilliant example of what enormous talent can achieve when nurtured in the right musical environments. ‘New World Leaders’ is the perfect conclusion to the saga, it’s easily the most tranquil, lowkey number on the project and features various callbacks to earlier tracks that ties the whole thing together in a fantastically thematic way. Highly recommended listening for any fan of boundary-pushing pop, or anyone seeking a more interesting take on a tired formula.
Listen to the album below.
Follow aydan on Twitter.
– Chris (@malenchanted)