The Canadian artist born Crystal Dorval has been tending the fields of dream-pop since her 2012 debut I Had a Dream, gifted with a heaven-sent voice that curls itself around her music’s vine-like instrumentals and a pastel melodic palette full of gauzy delay and reverb. Sound Of Blue keeps this mood board alive, while thematically picking up where she left off on 2020 predecessor Paradise Gardens. That album was an exploration of depression and mental health on which Dorval ultimately discovered that paradise is a state of mind.
Dorval has described White Poppy as “therapeutic pop,” and she leans into that concept again on Sound of Blue’s title track, which explores the notion of sitting with sadness: “Listen to the sound of blue/ As it takes over you.” Mainstream pop may be in the throes of its “shiny sad banger” era, but White Poppy’s effects-laden brand of crestfallen cooing cribs instead from the original sad girl blueprint laid by ‘80s and ‘90s indie luminaries like Elizabeth Fraser and Harriet Wheeler. Though Blue is the successor to Paradise Gardens, its seven compositions were originally conceived back in 2016—a diary of her time spent healing and creating in solitude.
The honeyed sound of ‘80s pop that sparkles on album opener “Apathy” sets the stage for the healing arc that unfurls across the album’s nine serene tracks. “Happy,” which follows, opens with a jangly guitar riff, as Dorval’s echoing voice settles deeply into the space around her. By the album’s fifth track, “Wiser,” the clouds have finally started to clear: “Get a little bit wiser/ Get a little bit brighter/ Feel a little bit better/ Every day,” Dorval sings; the song gives way to instrumental bliss-out “Melancholic Serenity,” which serves a bridge to a new mood, leading Dorval into her very own paradise. The album ends on a note of rehabilitation, with a reminder that we all have the ability to create our own inner paradise—we just have to set our mind to it.