Considering SOPHIE's influence on electronic and pop music in the 2010s, it's hard to believe that Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides is only the producer's debut album. The music collected on Product emphasized whimsical artificiality, using it as candy-coated armor that expressed SOPHIE's queerness and originality in equally affected and affecting ways. On the producer's first proper album, SOPHIE juxtaposes shiny surfaces and what lies beneath them.
Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides begins with the manifesto "It's Okay to Cry," a single that, upon its October 2017 release, felt and sounded drastically different than the producer's previous music. Instead of the helium-pitched vocals, it features SOPHIE's own voice for the first time while softly unfolding synths turn small but profound realizations into something epic. While nothing else on the album is quite so vulnerable, or close to conventional pop, "It's Okay to Cry" is the perfect prologue to Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides. Working with pop stars ranging from Charli XCX to Madonna hasn't blunted SOPHIE's music in the slightest -- in fact, it's even bolder, particularly on the album's first half. On "Is It Cold in the Water?" and "Infatuation," the producer embellishes on "It's Okay to Cry"'s widescreen intimacy, transforming deep synth grooves and diva vocals into mutant pop ballads that are all the more gorgeous for their strangeness. SOPHIE complements these reflective moments with the hard-edged mischief of "Faceshopping," which uses ever-changing lyrics and torquing synths to express how an authentic identity can be created through aesthetic choices, and the raunchy "Ponyboy," which sets the erotic possibilities of those identities to a heaving beat.
Despite these radical shifts, SOPHIE never sounds indecisive. Where Product felt like a collection of alien pop hits, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides abounds with interludes, passages, and major statements that allow the producer to dig deeper on the album's second half. The dissolution telegraphed by "Not Okay"'s malfunctioning rhythms and vocals morphs into the liminal space of "Pretending," a six-minute dronescape that suggests an idea -- or identity -- coming into being with a mood that's equally blissful and anxious. The dualities grow even more complex on "Whole New World/Pretend World," a collage of sugary pop, sirens, self-destructing electronics, and clouds of wordless vocals that falls somewhere between a beginning and a warning. Fortunately, SOPHIE takes a moment to celebrate the joys of imagination and reinvention on "Immaterial," a shout-out to misfit boys and girls that sounds like a party with Prince, Basement Jaxx, and Hatsune Miku at the top of the guest list. While SOPHIE's music has never been simple, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides' complexities and reinventions make it a remarkable debut album that reveals more with each listen.