If you were expecting Poppy's fifth album Zig to deliver metallic thrills you'll be disappointed, but then second-guessing Poppy is always a fool's game

Zig ushers in Poppy's 'dark-pop' phase, but the thrilling extremity of her best work is missed here

Poppy - Zig
(Image: © Sumerian Records)

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When Poppy announces a new album, you never really know what you’re going to get. Few artists have switched so readily between genres from one album to the next. Since her Bubblebath EP was released seven years ago, Moriah Rose Pereira has tackled electropop, heavy metal, industrial rock, alt. rock and even ambient, with varying degrees of success. Her latest project Zig moves into dark-pop territory, and though this feels like a natural progression for Poppy in theory, it largely fails to live up to the excitement that she inspired with earlier albums.

The 11 bitesize tracks that make up Zig venture more into traditional electropop than what was heard on the heavier Flux (2021) and I Disagree (2020). The four singles released ahead of the album are a fairly accurate representation of the record as a whole. The dark, alluring lyrics of Church Outfit and Motorbike have slight hints of her earlier metal sound, but their sense of cold detachment prevent the songs from really leaving a mark. With its dirty bass line, glacial synths, and gradual evolution into a screaming digital hardcore climax, Hard is much more effective, emerging as one of the album's high points.

But by the time we reach the middle of the album with Flicker, 1s + 0s and the titular Zig, it feels like each track is falling flat, blending into a repetitive loop of unimpressive electropop. Poppy’s best work has been on albums that most strongly divided the critics, but Zig, too often feels like a middling effort that isn’t experimental enough to evoke any strong feelings one way or the other.

There are, of course, a few surprising moments throughout the album that promise a lift in energy. The starkly beautiful What It Becomes opens with simple, haunting string argeggios which throws its chilling chorus - "Whoever you tie yourself to... Whoever you're gonna be kind to... it won't be me" -  into cold relief, and the second half of the record boasts the acoustic Linger - a co-write with Swedish songwriters Jocke Berg and Lara Andersson - and the exhilarating musical rollercoaster that is Prove It. But while these moments remind us of Poppy’s exciting tendency to deliver the unexpected, they aren’t enough to carry the whole album.

In the end, Zig falls short of the high standards we’ve come to expect from Poppy over the years. Maybe her dark-pop era will be a firm favourite with some fans, but if you hoped for the thrill of her rock and metal albums, Zig will leave a lot to be desired. She’s already hinted, however, that Zig is only part one of a longer narrative, so it may not be the end of the story – just don’t expect the sequel to sound the same as this. It’s Poppy, after all. 

Freelance writer, Louder

In addition to contributing to Louder, Vicky writes for The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, New Noise Magazine and more.