Mirror Gazer

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Just when it seemed that the atmospheric, synth-driven pop that dominated early-2010s indie had run its course, along came Dorian Duvall's Onuinu project. While Duvall called his music "disco-hop," it had more than a few similarities with chillwave, particularly in the nostalgic beats and warm, washy synths that appeared on nearly every track of his debut album, Mirror Gazer (it's hard not to read that album title as a commentary on just how insular as well as dreamy this kind of music can be). Yet much of his work has more substance and focus than that of his airy contemporaries, especially "Mirror Gazer" itself, which suggests a blend of Toro y Moi and TV on the Radio in its hazy sounds and up-front vocals. Similarly, "Always Awkward"'s juxtaposition of intentionally jerky rhythms, smooth singing, and down-to-earth vibe shows that Duvall is on to something distinctive enough to warrant the disco-hop tag. However, when Onuinu attempts to put the atmospheres first and the hooks and vocals second, things sag a bit, as on "Lost," which slightly overstays its welcome, and "Last Word," an intriguing junction of new age, R&B, and synth pop that even manages to use a talkbox well, but just doesn't have the presence of Mirror Gazer's more immediate tracks. Fortunately, the euphoric "Ice Palace" and "Happy Home"'s cheery disco beat close the album with Duvall doing what he does best: anchoring dreamy arrangements to rock-solid melodies and structures. Mirror Gazer is a promising debut, especially when Onuinu keeps at least one foot on pop's terra firma.

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