This new ep Crystalline from 19 year-old German artist bülow may seem like all synth beats, bass lines, and angsty teenage lyrics. It’s easy to write her off that way – she’s a semi-recent high school graduate, so what real life experience could she possibly have? But what bülow lacks in age she makes up for in wit and self-reflection, two things that don’t necessarily come with time. For someone so young, she already has so much to say about how the world makes her feel, and Crystalline does it in a way that really resonates. It’s an important reminder that age is just a number – and that a really catchy hook certainly helps.
Crystalline kicks off with the EP’s lead single, “Sweet Little Lies.” Seeing as bülow and I are close in age (I’m 22), the haunting melody wrapped me up and brought me back to when I thought indie sundance films were real and people fell so in love they thought they would die. Literally, that’s the kind of love bülow is channeling here: not only in the more obvious line “You know I’d rather die than say goodbye” but also “I live a picture in my head / Colors soaring as I float above my body in my bed yea / And I wonder if I’m dead, saw the white light flicker so I wake up in a sweat.” To me, that’s the real theme of the EP – the high you get from being young and feeling invincible is powerful, but it doesn’t cancel out the impending crash. That stuff gets heavy, but if you package it in 808s and upbeat melodies, boom – it’s a little bit easier to swallow.
“Get Stupid” is probably my favourite song on the EP because it’s really freakin’ fun and yet still very real. bülow spends this song singing about kissing frat boys and dancing until the floor caves in, which I’ve personally witnessed – bad decisions seem like good ones when you can’t hear over the subwoofer and everyone around you is seemingly on another planet. But while the song starts with a playful “I wanna get stupid, I wanna get dumb,” it suddenly jumps to “Somebody sneaking by the sink / Putting anonymous into my drink” and you can’t help but pause. It’s one of those many hidden truths that bülow likes to slip in and really adds a sense of consciousness you wouldn’t expect from a song like this, making it much more infectious. I’m impressed by her ability to add in these kinds of layers, which she does throughout the entire EP on songs like “Back OFF – Interlude” (cue the transition from concerning knife slash to sick beat) and “Euphoria” (even if bülow is crazy into you, she still knows better).
“Wordsmith” made me chuckle because it’s a very laid back, vibe-y track that tells the story of a character we ALL know too well: Mr. (or Mrs.) manipulative. Regardless, bülow doesn’t take anybody’s BS lying down, and she carries that attitude all the way through to “FINE” and “Wake Up.” Can’t commit? Don’t have anything nice to say? That’s all fine by bülow, but she won’t entertain your toxic behaviour. She’s made it clear on Crystalline that falling madly in love and partying into the night is hella fun, but her real sense of self comes from her ability to walk away when something doesn’t serve her. “Wake Up” is a particularly lovely way to end the EP, especially because it’s a kind acknowledgement to the fact that you can’t spend life in a haze – sure, life gets weird, but you have to be accountable for your actions. That’s a really important message.