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Album Review

Hazy electro-pop had longer legs than might have been expected when the style drifted into listeners' ears in the late 2000s, so much so that the five-year gap between Puro Instinct's debut Headbangers in Ecstasy and its follow-up barely impacted the band's relevance. As the sound's popularity grew, so did its interpretations, and Autodrama shows that Piper and Skylar Kaplan's music kept up with the times: The duo's second album hovers somewhere between the murky aesthetic of their former Gloriette labelmate Nite Jewel and Grimes' hi-def approach. Given the half-decade between this album and Headbangers, it's not surprising that the Kaplans sound more accomplished (indeed, Skylar graduated from Los Angeles County High School while they were making Autodrama), but the ways they express this maturity are still notable. "Panarchy" announces Puro Instinct's newfound confidence by lending drama and tension to their seductive whispers, while "Peccavi" edits Headbangers' beachy reveries into glistening smoothness. On songs such as "Scorpio Rising," Skylar's guitars continue to distinguish the Kaplans from their contemporaries, most of whom focus on synths for their mood-making. That said, they incorporate the electronic elements of their post-Headbangers singles seamlessly on Autodrama, with '90s-tinged beats keeping "Babylon" and the title track from floating away entirely. The Kaplans also bring the pop instincts that bubbled underneath the surface of their debut to the fore, delivering songs that could've been hits — or at least well-loved deep cuts — back in the '80s and early '90s. The R&B-tinged "Six of Swords" and the glitzy "What You See" prove that Puro Instinct are as capable of genuinely danceable pop as they are of transporting atmospheres, and recall Madonna's dreamiest early hits. Where Headbangers in Ecstasy was wall-to-wall sunshine, Autodrama's mix of bright lights and deep shadows was inspired by the duality of the Kaplans' hometown of Los Angeles. The nihilistic streak that runs through the album is alternately jarring and powerful: When Piper sings of dead Americans stuffed into body bags over a sparkling backdrop on "End of an Era," it's downright unnerving, while the contrast of jaded verses and innocent choruses on "Want Your Love" — which sounds like the best collaboration between Julee Cruise and Stacey Q that never happened — makes it all the more poignant. The way the Kaplans juxtapose '80s fantasy and 2010s reality gives Autodrama's deceptively breezy music a depth and purpose that separates them from the rest of the atmospheric pack, and makes their return all the more welcome.


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '10s

The dreamy pop project of Hollywood natives and sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan, Puro Instinct's roots can be traced back to an inspiring meeting Piper had with experimental musician R. Stevie Moore during a trip to New York City. She began writing songs with Skylar, a self-taught guitarist who was 13 years old at the time. Mexican Summer signed the duo on the strength of their demos and released their debut EP, 2009's Something About the Chaparrals. Another single, "Slivers of You," arrived before...
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Autodrama, Puro Instinct
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