“You kill me baby, and I’m happy to die,” sings a scornful Del Brown on “Do You Ever.” But Brown isn’t staring down a killer, she’s grilling a lukewarm lover, wondering whether they’ll “fall in love or stay in suspension,” the entendre left dangling in the listener’s imagination. Brown and her Mirrorgloss co-vocalist Najamoniq Todd use similarly dramatic metaphor to put relatable bows on many of their pulsing dance tracks, which have the warm familiarity of early ’90s house music, a style that fits them like a neon spandex glove.
With Raise Ya Grades, Mirrorgloss slims from the guitar-driven electro-fuzz/new-wave trio of 2015’s Yeah EP to a decidedly dance-oriented vocal duo working with a variety of producers. The album, their first full LP, features backing beats by Mike “Action Jackson” Illvester of Fly Moon Royalty and Rush Midnight, aka Russell Manning, formerly of Twin Shadow. DJ Phinisey, who hails from Tacoma and lives in LA, produces six of the eight songs, and he proves to be a retro-pop visionary. The aforementioned “Do You Ever” rushes like a gust of wind, and the behemoth “My Say” fronts with a skeletal radio-pop melody before running away with the kind of synth-smeared slow-jack swing Janet Jackson or Snap! might’ve pulled. The latter is capped by a verse by B. Rocket Tha Prophet, an easy highlight and the album’s only distinctly hip-hop moment.
The lyric sheet is brief on most tracks, but the singers make no attempt to blend in with the wallpaper; the two have powerful voices that reach toward Beth Ditto and Aretha Franklin. Brown’s soul-singer strain and Todd’s breathless sensuality punctuate heat-of-the-moment vignettes that catch the two narrators at points of contemplation. Todd pauses mid-foreplay on opener “My Say” to tell herself to “pump the brakes”; Brown breaks the fourth wall on the daydream-set “Fantasy” to express that she hopes “you fall asleep repeating my name.” Their words strike a casual romantic realism that contrasts with the music’s unrepentant dance floor urgency: You’re as struck with the urge to grind on a stranger as you are to confess your love to a longtime friend. An appealing vagueness frames these situations, which is perhaps the artists giving due space to the dance aspect of their sound. There’s depth in not overstating what the club needs.
Brown and Todd’s strength lies in the confidence of their delivery, and good thing, because Mirrorgloss can claim such grown-folks lustiness as their calling card. Add to it their knack for fitting production to their vocal style, and they’ve got momentum that’ll keep them—and us—moving all night.