Emily Reo’s music has always been defined by her voice, whether it was buried under chintzy drum machines on her 2009 debut or the centrifugal force for looping desires on 2013’s excellent Olive Juice. She does even more with that voice on her third album, Only You Can See It, stretching it like taffy, a splatter of color and a beating heart in an album that’s often about struggling to overcome the darkest parts of ourselves. That voice is a respite, its vocoder lace a shield that becomes a blanket that becomes a path to self-empowerment. It’s stronger than ever on this album, which was six years in the making, and contains some of her most ambitious and widescreen pop songs yet.
Only You Can See It is an album about a lot of things, but above all it’s about how difficult it can be to make a lasting human connection. On “Candy,” an impossibly sweet love song, she begs for that recognition: “I wanna see your face, I wanna hear you say/ That I’m real, you can feel my energy.” Reo buries her very analog concerns in songs that sound like robots crying, fantastical swirls about anxiety and shitty men and bottling up emotions until you can’t feel anything anymore. But Reo keeps an eye upward, hopeful for some answer that’ll click everything into place.
The album sounds impeccable, a crystallization of the aerated pop that Reo has been chasing since she started making music. Early singles “Strawberry,” “Ghosting,” and “Balloon” hinted at the heights that Reo would reach on it, but taken as a whole it sounds even better — densely layered tracks from start to finish, a remarkable feat that feels like flying.