If you’re looking for the perfect post-quarantine, post-heartbreak, “new-you” summer anthem, look no further than Samantha Joy Pearlman’s new EP, Atonement. Unable to confine her music stylings to any one genre, in only 5 songs, Pearlman blesses us with Olivia Rodrigo style pop-punk, Charli XCX/MARINA bubble-gum pop, and a FUN.-esque, musical theatre-style ballads. Atonement takes the listener on a journey from anger to acceptance, following a tale of being lost in the chaos of heartache and grief, but ultimately finding yourself amidst the wreckage and coming out stronger for everything you went through.
This EP starts off with a bang. The first words out of Pearlman’s mouth are; “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach/ Your dick is bigger than your heart.” This song is a pop-rock bop called “Madly,” and it perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being so furious and frustrated with someone and so MADLY in love with them at the same time. The energy of this song is reminiscent of early Paramore or even Olivia Rodrigo’s “Brutal,” pairing crunchy punk guitar with tongue in cheek lyrics, but with the maturity of an older and wiser artist.
The entire EP has a strong foundation in electro-pop, and the tight production makes most tracks a thrilling competition between her sweet vocals and the driving beats. “Real World,” the second track on the album, opens with abrasive synthy bass, but instead of the sassy pop vocals in “Madly”, we are met with an angelic falsetto. As the song progressive, elements of musical theatre vocals and melodies almost overtake the aggressive beats, and Pearlman shows off that she can really frickin’ sing.
“Birdsong,” is an upbeat and catchy pop anthem inspired by Checkhov’s play “The Seagull.” The sound on this track reminds me of Rubblebucket, with its toe-tapping chorus and Pearlman’s rhythmic use of her lyrics and vocal arrangements. With a music scene so saturated with moody female folk artists and cutesy hyperpop groups (both great, to be clear), Pearlman finds a satisfying balance between the two.
Written and released during a time of upheaval, change and uncertainty, Pearlman has commented on what it was like to make an EP during the pandemic. “I went from singing at recording studios to tracking with blankets clipped on an armoire while my upstairs neighbor yelled at me for singing in my apartment,” she said. The roller coaster nature of this process is reflected artfully in Atonement. This EP is short and sweet but is a fantastic introduction to Pearlman as an artist. If anything, this collection begs for a few more songs…and luckily her second EP is already set for release later this year. Stay tuned.