The Image Lovers, Fifteen Years Old
Buh Records, Perú
by Carlos Reyes
Fifteen Years Old self-describes as “melodramatic pop and biographical indie from Lima, Peru.” Unmistakably dark and melodically uneasy, Peruvian newcomer Solange Jacobs walks on isolated grounds in her debut The Image Lovers. Photographer by profession and former vocalist of the rock band Tonka, Jacobs is taking chances under the moniker Fifteen Years Old as her country’s newfangled enfant terrible. Featuring dog barking, church prayers, and macabre monster laughs in the background, The Image Lovers is conceptualized as a family memory box. The six-track, all-English language EP is strikingly confessional, haunting, and almost witchy at times.
Jacobs’ surfacing in the emergent Peruvian indie scene is completely unexpected; she’s one of those few artists that can honestly brag about doing something entirely different from the rest of her peers. But outside Lima, Fifteen Years Old has more than a few references in the fast-growing world of eerie and evil-looking new pop divas that include Grimes, Dani Shivers, and Zola Jesus. Jacobs might have the contained and probing vocal chops of a quinceañera, but her topics resonate to the posture of an experienced and well-traveled individual making half-allusive, half-satirical music. Fifteen Years Old brings some of the year’s most theatrical numbers, making a grand entrance with “Imaginary Vals.” This track swings back and forth and side to side as layered harmonies and wraithlike loops synchronize into a wonderfully dramatic Viennese waltz.
The Image Lovers never hides its ambition; in fact, it self-commends when given the chance. Neither a minimalist nor a maximalist, Jacobs is appreciative of a synthetic and architectural presence that enables her to operate between personal anecdote and fictional realism. So, if the menacing “The Beautiful Tailed Vixen” or the motion-forward “The Object” appear to belong to a third person objective reality, it’s because of Jacobs' stretchy disposition. While the emotional clarity and arousing music is hard to resist, the beauty is slightly wounded by the artist’s sketchy enunciation of the English language. I’m not a purist regarding language, but much of the passages here are incomprehensible (especially when you decide to whisper poems along with everything else). The Image Lovers has some clear affected areas, but as a whole, it’s quite impressive and moving. A temporary show-stopper and, at least for us, a serious candidate to take Kanaku y El Tigre’s place as this year’s Peruvian breakthrough.