Deap Vally began making noise in the alternative rock scene in 2012 with the release of their first single, “Gonna Make My Own Money.” Since the very beginning, neither Lindsey Troy nor Julie Edwards have shied away from discussing the place women hold not only in rock music, but in society as a whole. Whether it’s in interviews or their music, the duo has been very clear that they are proud feminists eager to discuss the status of women. Due to this history, titling their second album Femejism wasn’t exactly a shocking choice, but it did add a layer of expectancy to the album that Deap Vally wasn’t able to deliver upon in full.

Femejism opens with the catchy, albeit not loudly feminist “Royal Jelly.” On this, the album’s melodic first single, Troy croons in her signature languid way, draping her voice over Edwards’ heavy drumbeat. The overall effect results in a sensual tune that sounds exactly as would expect a Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)-produced Deap Vally track to. “Royal Jelly,” while not inspiring lyrically, is fun and tightly composed. Unfortunately, from here things begin to unravel.

Lyrically, the album has a couple of hits and many near misses. “Smile More,” an open letter to every man who has ever told a woman to smile or behave in a way that fits into the feminine ideal, is one of the strongest tracks on the album. While calling out men for their casual misogyny, Troy simultaneously acknowledges her own desires to fill some of these stereotypical roles such as that of a wife. It’s loud, angry and honest. It is these things that make “Smile More” stand out amongst the other tracks, making up for seeming lack any sort of conviction elsewhere. Songs like “Julian” and “Little Baby Beauty Queen” are clearly meant to have a feminist message supporting them, but they get lost underneath layers of growling vocals and lyrics that don’t feel connected to any real emotion. There is vitriol in some of the words, but without anything else of lyrical substance it is hard to connect to the anger, making it hard to feel a connection towards the album in general.

While the lyrics leave something to be desired, Deap Vally are branching out more musically with Femejism and it shows on songs like “Teenage Queen.” The duo plays with tempo throughout the track, speeding up and slowing down to build suspense, with Troy’s voice mimicking the pace. There is a sense of experimentation on the album, a sign that Deap Vally aren’t content just being a one trick pony.

The message of feminism doesn’t read throughout the album, but that might just be the point. On “Smile More,” Troy sings, “I am a feminist, but that isn’t why I started this.” While a title like Femejism would lead anyone to anticipate a girl power heavy album, Deap Vally don’t seem concerned to only teach misogynists about their mistakes. Regardless of the intended messages, Femejism doesn’t feel completely cohesive or coherent, but instead like a typically transitional sophomore release. It’s clear that Deap Vally will continue to evolve, but into what is anyone’s guess.

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