Mermaidens' second album for the Flying Nun label and third overall, Look Me in the Eye was named with a double meaning in mind. Inspired by shifting gender politics, stubborn power structures, and related frustrations, it refers to confrontation as well as intimacy. Continuing to sharpen their increasingly dark, angular sound, the New Zealand trio favor post-punk and psychedelic influences on an album that doesn't completely leave their mix of dream pop, grunge, and other textures behind. Recorded in 2018 with longtime studio collaborator James Goldsmith, Look Me in the Eye opens with "Crying in the Office," a tight, sinuous track with alternating, time-keeping guitar lines that persist through shifting time signatures and chord progressions. Things get predictably trippier on the sparse, noir-ish "Sleeptalker" ("You dream of far more guilty things"), a track that surprises with a metal-edged guitar-and-drums break. Refreshingly assertive musically and lyrically throughout, they don't mince words on "Best to Hate the Man," a dark, lumbering entry with an unsettling, skittering closed-hi-hat pattern that spreads to other surfaces like a pest. On the other end of the brightness spectrum, the lively "I Might Disappear" verges on dance-rock, offering synthesized textures, playful percussion, and a chorus of female voices that recurs on a couple of other tracks. While varied, Look Me in the Eye's post-punk colors are consistent throughout, as are self-assured vocals and eighth-note guitar patterns that are relentless to the point of bordering on needling. Underscoring their intent, closer "Priorities" leaves listeners with a jolt of distortion.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson