illuminati hotties: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For

“Let’s smash / To a Podcast / Tomorrow morning we’re cryin’ into a Denny’s grand-slam” front woman Sarah Tudzin sings on the opening track to illuminati hotties 2020 “mixtape:” Free I.H: This is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For. If those conspicuous lyrics or the mouthful of an album title don’t provide enough of an introduction to this L.A. indie rock band’s style, perhaps the title of the opening track will: “will i get canceled if i write a song called, ‘if you were a man you’d be canceled.’” Coming off their promising 2018 debut, Kiss Yr Frenemies, Illuminati Hotties indeed live up to the promise of This is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For’s title, delivering a raucous, unhinged collection of short, sarcastic, and noisy pop-punk songs that stand apart from their debut. To describe this album as simply “pop-punk,” however, is an injustice.

illuminati hotties were founded in 2017 by singer, songwriter, and sound engineer, Sarah Tudzin. Their 2018 debut Kiss Yr Frenemies, released on Tiny Engines, saw them experimenting with the popular bedroom pop/rock sound, incorporating elements of dream pop, noise rock, pop-punk, surf rock and even folk. The album became an underground indie success and fans and critics were anxious for a follow up. In 2019, financial fraud allegations against Tiny Engines began to surface by various artists and Tudzin wanted out of her contract. Tudzin and the label eventually came to an agreement: a cash settlement and the royalties of a future album. It is within this context that the Hotties recorded FREE I.H: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For, a 23 minute self-proclaimed “mixtape”.

The frustrating circumstances surrounding this album heavily inform it’s sound, concept, and lyrics. The track “free ppls” is a gritty punk song equipped with a driving blast-beat and a menacing guitar riff. Tudzin howls about the distorted concept of freedom in American society: “Look at the sheeples in their feeding pasture while the / Dutiful shepherd drives them harder and faster,” while vehemently claiming, “We / Want to be free” on the bridge. This jaw-clenching, punk edge continues on songs like “WATTBL” and “superiority complex (big noise).” Other songs display Illuminati Hotties experimenting with other sounds. The track “content//bedtime” sounds like a mixture of Talking Heads and Le Tigre. Parts of “melatonezone” sound like they could fit perfectly on a Vampire Weekend record. The album is not completely devoid of the catchy, sardonic indie pop songs of their debut, however. Standout track “freequent letdown” is an absolute earworm and displays Tudzins knack for charming, self-deprecating lyrics. The album is also not without its emotional moments, such as the heartwarming closing track “reasons 2 live,” where Tudzin lists friends in her life for whom she is grateful.

Despite the extenuating circumstances with a label that might have caused a different artist to put out something lackluster and meaningless, illuminati hotties deliver a fantastic “mixtape,” complete with catchy hooks, noisy head-bangers, and quirky left turns. Tudzins lyrics are hilarious and, at times tragic, but the album doesn’t take itself too seriously. While it may not be the longer, polished, upbeat indie rock of their debut, FREE I.H: This is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For shows a promising future for a band with newfound creative freedom.

Recommended If You Like: The Beths, Cayetana, Mike Krol
Recommended Tracks: free ppls, freequent letdown, reasons 2 live
Do Not Play: free dumb
Written by Josh Rubino on 09/21/2020