Album Review: Erika de Casier – Still

[4AD; 2024]

Erika de Casier’s self-released 2019 album Essentials, a revelatory dive into pop/R&B, sounded more like a greatest hits compilation than a debut. After signing to 4AD, the Danish singer/producer released her excellent sophomore record Sensational in 2021. When I saw her live for the first time a year later, at a small club in Washington D.C., she absolutely rocked it – it was clear that her talent surpassed the trappings of the modest under-capacity venue.

In the interim since Sensational, de Casier has finally found large-scale pop success, albeit as a songwriter and producer for K-pop girl group NewJeans. During a session in Copenhagen, de Casier co-wrote most of the songs on the group’s 2023 EP Get Up, which sold over 1 million copies on the day of its release and beat out the Barbie soundtrack to hit #1 on Billboard. The artist who once struggled to find a label interested in Essentials now looks classy as ever on her new album cover, and a recent Guardian interview finds her sitting in a new home under construction.

Again steeped in 90s/2000s hip-hop and R&B, Erika’s new record is titled Still both as a nod to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Still D.R.E.” and as a reminder that she’s still E.D.C., no matter the newfound success. De Casier fans and newcomers alike will love the slick DnB of single “Lucky” and “ooh”’s beat, which channels early-2000s Darkchild. “ooh” brings out the best of de Casier – catchy melodies, throwback production, adlibs on point. Her overall vibe hasn’t changed much in the past few years, and why fix what ain’t broke? But Still does try new things, as it finds her working with new people while simultaneously showing more of herself. 

Sensational yielded a remix album, but Still is de Casier’s first album with features, and the artists appearing here do a good job fitting themselves into the mold of her musical world. Floridian indie rappers They Hate Change act as Erika’s wishy-washy lovers on “ice”, and their wry presence (“trip to Copenhagen gave me frosty soles”) adds a welcome foil: in the past all her problematic lovers were faceless, but now they have a real presence. The wonderful Shygirl matches de Casier’s sexy self-assurance on “Ex-Girlfriend”, and Blood Orange, with whom de Casier previously worked with on 2022’s “Relax and Run”, inhabits a chill, jazzy space on “Twice” that is similar to their previous collab.

Though her lyrical content is typically lighthearted, “The Princess” finds an especially vulnerable de Casier questioning the tantalizing rewards of pop stardom: “Is it wrong of me to / want all the things I was / shown all my life?”​​ Her voice contorts into a new, high register as she pines, “I wanna be a mom / and still do my job”. The decision to bring “The Princess” toward the front of Still instead of tucked in the back like Sensational’s “Secretly” shows de Casier’s desire to express her true feelings: these are her songs, and she’s owning it.

“Twice” follows a thread of melancholy that has been quietly present in her music since Essentials (“Rainy”, “Space”). Over live instrumentation she laments, “My favorite meals are tasteless / ‘cause I cooked ‘em once or twice with you.” It’s part of a group of tracks toward the end of Still that explore feelings of sadness and stress, with her signature sense of humor occasionally shining through. On “My Day Off”, a thematic sequel to “Busy”, she rails over a dark, alarm-clock filled beat against the burden of work : “No I can’t squeeze / a little meeting on a Sunday / You can send me an e-mail / with all of this sh-!” On “Toxic” she asks her disdainful paramour, “Why you wanna stress me? / Well put it on my desk… I’ll look at it in the morning”.

“Someone”, the final track on Still, is perhaps even darker than Sensational’s closer “Call Me Anytime”. It’s another moment of vulnerability, with E.D.C. questioning her own self-worth in an unusually poetic pre-chorus: “I look like I’m about to fall / don’t I? / I swear I heard the sundown / whisper…” After finding more success as a writer than in her own work, it’s unclear if Erika de Casier will soon get the visibility as an artist that she deserves, or even wants. But she can sing, write, and produce some of the best pop music of today. Without a doubt, she’s still got it.