Pittbsurgh/Vermont-based artist Lili Traviato’s latest album as Princess Nostalgia, Thank Heavens 4 Opposable Thumbs, is out today, and represents her most fully realized work to date.
Lili Traviato has always identified herself as a producer first and a singer second. She hammers the point home at every opportunity because of the countless times people have assumed that someone else (probably a dude) put her instrumentals together for her. It’s a matter of both accuracy and pride; as Traviato told Bored In Pittsburgh earlier this year, “I was born with my singing voice, but my abilities as a producer have taken years to cultivate. It’s like people think my music is good by accident…”
Traviato’s new release as Princess Nostalgia, Thank Heavens 4 Opposable Thumbs, is very good, and it’s certainly not by accident. The album represents her most polished, intricately-crafted work to date. She’s given her slinky R&B bounce a coating of space age gloss, which is reflected in the album’s artwork (Princess Nostalgia’s signature blue-pubed humanoid riding a cloud through the universe at warp speed). Several tracks are reworks of previous releases; Traviato is something of a perfectionist, a fact for which listeners should be thankful. For example, the astro-funk bopper “Gestalt Switch,” which had been released as a single in 2018, packs a beguiling wallop that was only hinted at in its original iteration.
Fittingly, Thank Heavens 4 Opposable Thumbs begins and ends with statements of independence. Opener “No Guru,” which has squeaked past “The Talking Drug” (a seductive, guitar-led funker also included on the album) as my favorite Princess Nostalgia track, focuses on the phrase “I will never need a guru,” which Traviato repeats like a koan in radiant, multi-tracked harmony overtop percolating synths and rubber band bass. The warm, hip-hop-adjacent ballad “Love Me Long Time” closes things out with another affirmation of self-reliance (“Get out my mental space/Never deserved it anyway”). The music sandwiched between these two tracks is rich, elastic, and lively. Traviato has a meticulous ear for detail, which she credits to her years playing the double bass, an instrument that acts as the subtle, yet essential, backbone of any arrangement. Peep the barely perceptible drones and bubbles that transform “Master SpaceTime” into a dubby slow-burner, the ambient crowd noise that adds extra fire to the sardonic protest anthem “Podium Playground,” and the childlike “Hey!” interjections sprinkled throughout “Love Me Long Time” that give the track an air of nostalgic purity. It’s little flourishes like these that lend the album depth and personality.
It’s clear that Traviato put in the work while creating this album, and the results speak for themselves. The Princess Nostalgia sound continues to evolve, deepen, and expand over time, which, again, once more for the people in the back, is a testament to the artist’s skill as a PRODUCER. Thank heavens for Thank Heavens 4 Opposable Thumbs.