Confident queer pop from a gifted songwriter.
What makes Rostron unique is how they bake such messages into the pleasures of commercial pop. Their sense of groove and melody has become tighter over the years, starting out with eccentric art-pop and ending up closer to radio hits. Powerhouse makes this clearer than ever. Here, Rostron crafts earworms in glowing atmospheres, ornamented with glints of piano and strings. The dance tracks are stripped back and strutting. At its catchiest, the album sounds like something from the pop charts. The opening hook on "Transome," for example, is just a few notes away from "You Remind Me" by Usher. "Somethings More Painful Than Others," a warm and slick deep house tune, has as much poolside potential as "Get It Together" by Drake and Black Coffee. Now just replace gab about picking up women with meaningful lyrical content.
In their lyrics, Rostron takes pride in their genderqueer identity, turning complex topics into nimble pop hooks. The writing is fun not philosophical, cheeky but self-aware, and generally makes for good singalongs. (If you've ever belted out "Umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh," now try "Non-binary femme.") On love—the driver of any good pop album—Rostron speaks from a position of sexual confidence at a time when conservatives have written off trans and queer preferences as simply confused. "Baby I want you to know / that I feel transome," Rostron sings across a swaggery beat. On "Much To Touch," an addictive groover co-produced by Olof Dreijer (formerly of The Knife), the topic is hooking up with emotional hesitation: "I'm a touch too much / I'm much to touch." Anyone, no matter where they stand on the spectrums of gender and sexuality, can relate. That's what makes good pop.
Other parts of Powerhouse belong solely to Rostron. These are songs about their family, stories of trauma, childhood and emotional release. They add a striking sense of vulnerability and depth. "Dear Brother," written to Rostron's deceased sibling, cradles a dark memory in plush pads and fluttering melodies. "Beulah Loves Dancing" puts a sweet monologue over a funky instrumental to pay tribute to Rostron's late father. The title track, which closes the album, is a slow, beautiful piece for their mother. On Powerhouse, we learn many things about Rostron. Few artists can express their politics and personal life so directly.