All Love's Legal

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Planningtorock's music has always had an empowering streak: Have It All was a journey of self-discovery and creative rebirth, while W explored the potential conflicts between love and self. All Love's Legal expands on these concerns as well as the prominence of LGBT rights in the 2010s, resulting in songs that embrace love and reject traditional gender roles. Prior to the album's release, Planningtorock's leader adopted the androgynous name Jam Rostron, reflecting how passionately she cares about the subject. Rostron's aims are just as clear on All Love's Legal -- in fact, these songs are often so literal that they hover somewhere between direct and obvious at any given moment. "You cannot legalize love/Love is the one gift that gives life," Rostron sings on the title track in a pitch-shifted voice that recalls Antony Hegarty or Bronski Beat's Jimmy Somerville, and while it's hard to disagree with that statement, it's also hard to get excited about it. This bluntness is crucial -- people who don't conform to societal norms when it comes to love and sex shouldn't have to hide or disguise that fact -- but too often, it feels like Rostron makes this point without adding much insight. That there's much more to humanity and sexuality than male, female, straight, and gay offers plenty of opportunities for thought-provoking songwriting and storytelling, yet All Love's Legal's lyrics tend to feel more impersonal and slogan-based in comparison to the witty details sprinkled through Have It All and W. Only on songs like "Steps," where Rostron sings "I'm walking on my future/I'm walking on my heart," does it feel like there are any real emotional stakes. But even if its language is clunky, All Love's Legal's music is often nimble. "Beyond Binary Binds" focuses on buzzing synths that are way too flexible for any kind of boundaries; crisp strings help "Human Drama" live up to its name; and the percolating electronics of former single "Misogyny Drop Dead" transcend its jargon-laden lyrics. The most danceable moments deliver the anthemic power Rostron strives for: "Public Love," with its urgent house rhythm and brassy synths, stretches out and lets the beat do the talking, while "Patriarchy Over & Out" unites the album's funky and rarefied sounds in a satisfying finale. At times, Rostron comes dangerously close to seeming like a copycat of her Tomorrow, In a Year collaborators the Knife. "Answer Land" is the kind of icy vignette that dotted Silent Shout, while "Let's Talk About Gender, Baby" riffs on a line from Shaking the Habitual's "Full of Fire," though Rostron's song is much more playful. Indeed, it's hard not to want more of the sass and personality Planningtorock displayed on Have It All and W from All Love's Legal. Even though the album's well-intentioned concepts don't always work, Rostron remains an artist with bold ideas.

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