Whether she's working under her given name, as half of iamamiwhoami, or on her own as ionnalee, Jonna Lee's ability to change while holding onto what makes her special has always been a fundamental part of her music. Just as iamamiwhoami's music spanned the ruminations of Kin to the uplifting Blue, as a solo artist she explores how quickly the future becomes the past through different sides of her shivery, thoughtful electronic pop. On her 2018 solo debut, Everyone Afraid to Be Forgotten, ionnalee presented these ideas via brooding, percussive songs; on Remember the Future, she takes a lighter, more hopeful -- and more purely pop -- approach. "Open Sea," which launches the album with gentle synths that push off into a four-on-the-floor beat, combines iamamiwhoami's scope and Jonna Lee's structured songwriting into one of the most engaging songs from any of her incarnations. Much like fellow Swedes Niki & the Dove, ionnalee transforms pop into epic statements, whether on the billowing, alt-R&B-tinged "Crystal" or "Some Body," a reminder to stay in the moment that builds on Everyone's dancefloor leanings with its rippling bass line. Fortunately, ionnalee doesn't sacrifice any of her music's complexity on Remember the Future. Instead, she carefully balances the album's more direct songs with spacious interludes that suggest spaces to confront and embrace the hope and fear that come with the unknown. With its mysteriously twinkling melody and bustling percussion, "Race Against" evokes a crystalline chrysalis where these kinds of transformations can take place. This sense of cosmic rebirth extends to the meditative Zola Jesus duet "Matters," where the juxtaposition of the pair's voices takes on a spiritual intensity, and to the Julee Cruise cover "Mysteries of Love," which feels like a love song to -- or perhaps from -- the universe. Ionnalee also makes the most of the dualities implied by Remember the Future's title as she looks forward to what could be and laments the loss of hope in the past on the title track and finds ways to take the pain of everyday life in stride on "Wipe It Off." Though Lee leaves her listeners with the playful self-awareness of "I Keep," Remember the Future gives the impression that her journey as an ever-evolving artist will never end.
Remember the Future Review
by Heather Phares