Underscores, the musical pen name of April Harper Grey, has quickly risen to the top of the growing hyperpop genre. Her 2021 debut album “fishmonger” brought a breath of fresh air to the genre, incorporating guitar riffs reminiscent of early-2000s pop punk to the high-pitched, distorted vocals and electronic instrumentation characteristic of hyperpop. In that same year, she was one of four artists to open for hyperpop duo 100 gecs for the first leg of their “10,000 Gecs” tour, cementing her place as a key voice in hyperpop.
In her sophomore LP, “Wallsocket,” released Sept. 22, underscores demonstrates considerable maturation as a songwriter and musical experimentalist. The pop punk– and emo-fused hyperpop sound is present throughout, though this time occasional shades of Delta blues and bluegrass appear, adding greater depth to her wonderfully original sound.
“Wallsocket” is a musical odyssey, taking the listener through soundscapes that initially appear disparate but ultimately weave into one another. The album’s 12-song tracklist, which comes in at just under an hour in total, is one of the most complete hyperpop projects to date, brilliantly displaying everything the genre can be. It is sure to please the seasoned hyperpop listener with its originality, while also roping in newcomers with its multi-genre sound.
The album opens with “Cops and robbers,” a tune that sets up the overarching emo aesthetic of the project while incorporating a groovy baseline and electronic instrumentation that is complemented by high-pitched, distorted vocals. Its hook is reminiscent of Paramore, though it’s not long before the track breaks down into computer noise with quieter vocals and a more stripped-down backing track.
Next is “Locals (Girls like us),” which features a repeating, spoken motif — “Arms, body, legs, flesh, skin, bone, sinew, good luck” — that creates an unsettling yet deeply entertaining listening experience. With the backing of the song shifting from a bass-heavy dance beat to a more acoustic-sounding guitar riff, the song’s unpredictability gives it its shine.
The third song, “Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” takes on a more lo-fi sound, eventually building up to a high-energy beat. This song structure somewhat continues through the track “You don’t even know who I am,” which constantly loops the line “Everybody has bad days, don't worry / It's not the end of the world, there's always tomorrow / You can do it / I'm ready to support your next effort / I'm always here for you.”.
Nearly halfway through the album, we are granted “Johnny johnny johnny.” One of the best tracks on “Wallsocket,” the song begins with the screeching of a violin that gets quickly overtaken by an electric drum loop. The song contains some of the album’s most energetic and sassy vocals, with layered electronic sounds populating the song throughout.
Next on the album is “Shoot to kill, kill your darlings,” which uses the sound of a gun cocking as the driving force for the beat until it shifts to a lower-energy riff played on what sounds like a banjo. This subdued ending extends into “Horror movie soundtrack,” which hints at lingering eeriness underneath the track. Both tracks are counteracted by “Old money bitch,” a high-energy tune reminiscent of early 2000s pop, containing satirical lyrics about a teenage girl who commits petty crimes and rebels against her wealthy family.
Next is “Geez louise (with henhouse!),” both a highlight on the album and within the entire hyperpop genre. With evolving backing tracks and a deep sonic texture, the tune expertly synthesizes the motifs previously established throughout the album. Screeching, distorted heavy metal guitar solos are placed on top of Delta blues–esque riffs, with varying vocal styles hovering on top. Just when it feels like the tone of the song has settled, the track shifts into an atmospheric interlude, which then gives way to a vocally driven piece with clear, beautiful voices. It closes with primal screaming and heavy drum beats to create a seven-minute masterpiece of experimental music.
Nearing the end of the record, “Seventyseven dog years” is driven by deep-in-the-pocket backbeat drums layered on top of a smooth guitar riff. The penultimate track, “Uncanny long arms (with Jane Remover),” uses acoustic guitar with heavily distorted vocals and crackly audio. Further on, underscores incorporates hard rock guitar lines to provide a drastic, but welcome, tonal shift. Sounds of hyperventilation interspersed with occasional cracked vocals and rhythmic guitar round the song out in its second half.
The album ends on a much lower key with “Good luck final girl,” which starts fully acoustic as underscores sings the most touching lyrics of the album. It slowly fades out with more vocal distortion until the lyrics are incomprehensible, bringing a definitive end to the album.
Underscores balances it all in “Wallsocket” — a large pool of genres, experimental sounds and transcendent vocals. The album more broadly elevates the genre of hyperpop — taking it one step further from 100 gec’s “10,000 gecs.” With each track’s intricate layering and depth of sound. “Wallsocket” cements the genre as the modern-day equivalent of punk rock that will continue to push the boundaries of music.
Distorted audio and in-your-face vocals, complemented by often satirical yet touching lyrics, challenge the musical status quo. “Wallsocket” is one of the year’s best albums and a sign that hyperpop will continue to push the boundaries of what music can be — all while highlighting singular artistic voices that have traditionally been unacceptable in mainstream circles.
Finn Kirkpatrick is an arts & culture editor. He is a junior from Los Angeles, California studying Comparative Literature who likes to review movies and other things of that sort.