1 Rebel Nation - Porcelain (Album Review)

Hailing from the sunny West coast, the curiously named 1 Rebel Nation are an alternative pop duo who dexterously bend between adult contemporary and experimental hip-hop. Californian-based musicians Dejon La Quake and Dakota Love create lush and diverse pop songs that put mood paramount by way of impressively textured mixes. Many of the pieces across their sophomore album, Porcelain, have their own legs to stand on if you remove the makeup of idiosyncratic production. The group operates on a snappy and catchy brand of alt-pop-rock, the infectiously fun melodies that exude rebel-like confidence that reminds of Wet Leg but with a more psychedelic and nostalgic platter. In addition, the sound is draped in 90s romanticism that helps to counter-balance some of the more twee sentiments, which are also offered by candid country-folk balladry.  

Porcelain follows 2019's raucous debut Bloom, a rougher but equally gallimaufry affair, with a beefier playing time (thirty minutes up from twenty) and more dotty expressions of confusion, love, and our place in the world. The album sees 1 Rebel Nation fully embrace their oddball tendencies while keeping the sweet acoustic pastiches intact. "naked" is about the brevity of life ("Naked you come, naked you go"). However, the group cleverly offset the dark theme with lightly-brewed acoustic power pop. "flesh" is a psychedelic punk number that segues into strange corridors of experimental electronica. "breaking tides" wonderfully merges folktronica intentions with solid melodies. Yet, this is pop music through and through. The piano, the twisted arpeggiated electronic sounds, and the sincere emotion in the choruses make this a totally worth-it guilty pleasure. 

Though the ten songs on the album come in at just over thirty minutes, there is a variegated aspect to the genreless ethos that lends itself to satiated listening. Such an abandoning of coherent genre constructs gives 1 Rebel Nation personality. Also, they play with discordant strikes and odd choices of notes, and always with a penchant for atmospheric sounds that blend together in a swirling haze. However, such a targetless approach is more likely to misfire, like the undercooked and confused 'spinnin'; its neo-Britney verses leading to the kind of future-wave Europop that comes preinstalled on Chinese smartphones. Thankfully, in other places, this kind of highly processed sweetmeat can be fulfilling, like on "linger", an interestingly assembled, admirably written, and sizably melodic song. Likewise, the sentimental "a breed apart" lands on a grandiose plateau of big guitar sounds, the ambient textures of the album highlight "the element of crime" soothes in its repetition and focused chorus, and the ambient hip hop of "kill your idol" provides a colourful deepening of character. These songs hit most when the pair let their personality and love of music come together unbridled by the expectation of accessibility as seen on their flashier steps; their attempts at releasing something that might stick with a mass market compromise their natural artistic flair. 

Porcelain is an impressive album likely to attract more fans to this curious group. Good songwriting merges with a sophisticated style of electro-pop that only occasionally cringes at itself. Not all tracks match the accomplishment of the better ones, and even some questionable verses live alongside absorbing choruses and complex musical ideas. However, there's more good than bad, and even more great than good. There's a warmth underlying all songs, a sincerity in their delivery and the evident care that's been put into their sound that make this the type of album you will grow to appreciate for its flaws, not despite them.