During the chorus of “Best Friend,” the seamless, summery Sofi Tukker single that was recently featured in an iPhone X ad, a deep voice asks, “Yo, you want to meet me at the club?” If you’ll listen closely, you’ll hear that the response is not “Ya,” but the far more interesting “Yawp!” Is that a reference to Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” in Song of Myself? If so, it would make a lot of sense. Throughout Treehouse, their debut LP, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern exhibit the poet’s bold spirit, splashing expressive, unapologetic lyrics with electronic sunshine.
The duo’s no-regrets attitude is made manifest right away with “F**k They,” the first track on the album. “I don’t give a f**k about they” is the mantra Hawley-Weld repeats, reminding listeners how little the duo cares about sticking to norms when making music. The next track, “Energia,” makes it clear that their words aren’t empty. It’s clearly a dance track, but it’s far from formulaic. The lyrics are in Portuguese, a language Sofi Tukker has studied and appreciated for a while, and they consist of interesting phrases like “chegou a hora do jeep lunar” (“It’s time for the lunar jeep”) rather than clichés, painting a picture of a truly out-of-this-world club scene. Near the end of the song, pulsing beats are punctured intermittently by vocals, playing with sound and speech in an innovative way. In a recent interview with Coveteur, Hawley-Weld and Halpern emphasized that the band embraces being “movement-oriented… fun and happy,” rejecting the pressure to be the kind of “cool dark band” that is sometimes taken more seriously. That’s something to be grateful for—the sound of Sofi Tukker having a good time is a lovely sound, indeed.
Still, despite Sofi Tukker’s effervescent image, Treehouse offers plenty of moments for thoughtful reflection. One of these is “Johny,” another Portuguese track. The lyrics come from a 1983 poem by Brazilian writer Paulo Leminski, showing that their interest in the culture is more than surface-level. Right away, the intro establishes an intense atmosphere with minimalist instrumentation. When Hawley-Weld comes in singing “Johny? Está me ouvindo?” (“Johny, can you hear me?”), the song’s atmosphere perfectly matches the urgency in her tone.
“Baby I’m A Queen” is another standout. Hawley-Weld immediately puts herself in a position of power by declaring “Baby, I’m a queen, so why do you call me ‘baby’?” in the first line. The way she alternates between low notes and falsetto, always sounding glossy and self-assured, is reminiscent of Marina and the Diamonds. Although the lyrics aren’t satirical in the way that Marina Diamandis’s often are, they’re just as full of social commentary. On Twitter, Sofi Tukker summarized the message of the song by writing, “Just because you are vulnerable doesn’t mean you have to let yourself be belittled or infantilized.” This is an important sentiment, and Sofi Tukker conveys it beautifully through the chorus, which asserts that it’s human to “prefer desire to self-control… prefer crying to being composed… prefer chaos to even flow.”
“Best Friend” is the final track on the album. It’s easy to see why Apple wanted to use it in its advertising; it’s one of the catchiest odes to platonic love written in recent memory (another being the song of the same name by Foster the People). The song is a collaboration between Sofi Tukker, Japanese singer/DJ Alisa Ueno, and EDM duos The Knocks and NERVO, giving it a fantastic roundtable feel that truly adds to the theme. Horn flourishes, cowbell percussion, and a groovy bassline make it the kind of slick track that you might hear on the catwalk. It’s hard to choose one favorite part of the song, but Ueno’s verse is particularly fun, especially the line “I’m so addictive, like some Pokémon.”
Treehouse might be dancey and colorful, but that doesn’t make it any less artful. It’s an ideal late spring release, packed with tracks that would sound even better blasted through rolled-down car windows. If Sofi Tukker continues to follow its instincts and make songs that explode with passion, it’s sure to round up a whole jungle’s worth of fans.