ALBUM REVIEW: Shygirl, Nymph
The real AntiArt simps know how much of a Shygirl simp I really am. Ever since I heard her on Arca’s “Watch” from KiCk i in 2020, I’ve been absolutely hooked on her particular blend of raunchy UK glitch pop. This “bawdy” style as she describes it fully manifested itself on her ALIAS EP from that same year. Tales of fast cars, rug burn and hard drugs were soundtracked by beatwork from the likes of Sega Bodega and the late, great Sophie Xeon. In its most thrilling moments, ALIAS felt like getting down and dirty in the backseat of a Mercedes-Benz truck by someone else’s significant other, probably off ketamine and tequila. It propels you head first into this night vision landscape of hedonistic temptation, with “FREAK” being the absolute peak. Sonically, the EP softened some of the sharp edges of her previous work in favor of danceability and vocal clarity. With such a unique and addictive style, I was eager to see what was next for her. 2021 saw her dropping singles that felt like inverse ideas. While “BDE” took the bawdy style to its absolute limits, “Cleo” takes her in a more refined and romantic direction. After seeing her perform all of these tracks live in Mexico, I could confidently say that she is a star and I needed a full-length debut from her. I was basically begging on my knees for it.
While I will say that Nymph is not the perfect album, it is everything that a debut should be. Shygirl sounds confident over familiar, but more mature, varied and complex production from Sega Bodega and Bloodpop. Thank god that hyperpop is not completely dead. While I respect Charli XCX for making a more traditional pop and dance record with Crash, the PC Music sound is neglected and needs to be nurtured. I give a lot of props to artists like Shygirl, Namasenda and Ecco2k for continuing to grow their own respective styles with hyperpop in mind. “Firefly” draws directly from ‘90s Europop acts like Aqua without sounding goofy in the process. Meanwhile, Shy teams again with Arca to create another Metal Gear Mech of a deconstructed pop track on “Come For Me”. The beat is mechanical and Shy’s vocals are commanding, “Come when you’re called, be easy if I take the lead”. It refuses to stand still for even a moment, constantly shifting with squelching synths or skittering percussion hits as her vocals get chopped, looped and pitched by Arca. It honestly might be the song of the year. See what happens when you stick with the sound you began with, if even just for a few songs? The experimentation begins to creep and leak into everything else, even on more straightforward sex trap jams like “Shlut”.
Through the brief 32-minute runtime of Nymph, we get dabblings in hip-hop, R&B, UK garage, trip-hop, hyperpop (of course) and more, and Shygirl is able to bring it nearly every time. I was very skeptical when I heard “Coochie (a bedtime story)” as a single, but over time it’s become one of her most catchy and sensual cuts. It’s literally like “bisexual lighting” as a singular song, like a yassified version of YN Jay’s coochie freestyles. Following this up is “Heaven”, a slow-burning, sweet love ballad that takes full advantage of Shy’s borderline ASMR vocals and opens with waves crashing. The synth pads, melodic keyboard twinkles and groovy bass drums evoke weightlessness, and her words make me feel like I’m cuddled up with a crush. “Honey” has a similar vibe, heavy synth pads, lots of atmosphere building, cycling metallic drums and of course, Shy’s lullaby. It’s downtempo, trip-hop, breakbeat music that’s nostalgic for the future. “Wildfire” is a low-key closer, drawing more directly from UK electronic music, lyrically evoking fiery yearning and desire. On Nymph, the Shygirl ethos feels fully fleshed out, she is too cool to be loud, but by no means is she “shy”. She just gets what she wants in the shadows and late nights, and for brief moments, shows vulnerability and needs that exceed the limits of lust.
All of that overarching theme talk aside, there are individual songs here that I could’ve done without. Truthfully, she could’ve just replaced “Nike” and “Poison” with an extended version “BDE”; we might just be in the A range if that was the case. The production on “Nike” is nondescript, the lyrics aren’t wild enough to be entertaining and the chorus is a bit awkward. “Poison” is by far the weakest of the bunch, with that Chef Boyardee horn loop. No shade towards Shygirl at all, I think she is literally the future of pop music, but this song just isn't for me. I am excited to finally have this debut in hand, I think Shy and her co-producers hit their mark. Even the single artwork and album cover aesthetics with those glass raindrops, pastel blues and earth tones just continues to add layers to art. While I’d still say ALIAS is her best work to date track-for-track, Nymph is a more complete body of work that new and old fans will love.