Casey Dienel’s music sound like a dark splash of oil hitting cool water; it’s the high of midnight hitting with the same heat of the midday sun. Her new album has the thick air of desperation that all fantastic pop music requires, and the fight to get it out into the world was not an easy one. The melodies she makes aren’t sweet or precise like good formula pop, instead they easily stray and come unhinged, pulsing with the abandon of a woman who has no f*cks left to give. Often, it’s the very forces that drive an artist to the brink that also drive them into the arms of greatness — such is the case with her new album Imitation Of A Woman To Love, her second under her given name. So, while there’s an undercurrent of frustration on Dienel’s latest album, there’s also a sense that the record wouldn’t be here without it; anger as artistic pop praxis.
Though Imitation is only Dienel’s second record under her given name, its the sixth project where she’s served as the driving musical force; she released four projects as White Hinterland from 2008-2014 for the indie label Dead Oceans. In 2016 she initiated a lawsuit against Justin Bieber, Skrillex, and the crew of songwriters who helmed Bieber’s 2015 smash hit “Sorry” for the similarities it has to a song called “Ring The Bell,” off her 2014 White Hinterland album Baby, particularly focused on a distinctive vocal riff that arguably made the song.
While even indie tastemaker sites like Pitchfork have sided against Dienel, due to a video Skrillex uploaded that purports to explain how he created the similar sample, it’s impossible to listen to White Hinterland’s last record, along with Imitation, and not hear the number of distinct jittery-synths or operatic and breathy soprano hooks she routinely creates as a clear precursor to the newly-ubiquitous, dark, rubbery glitch that’s all over the mainstream pop world.
Perhaps this helps explain why Dienel felt compelled to write, sing, produce, and engineer every single sound you hear on Imitation Of A Woman To Love; it is the choice of a woman sick of explaining her own genius. Imitation came out last week — on the label she created to release it — Paddle Your Own Canoe Society, and Casey even did most of initial PR outreach for the record on her own. Independence is a specific kind of weapon against thievery or, well, imitation, but it serves another purpose for Dienel; it is also a balm.
“I realized the best times for me are when I’m by myself,” Dienel told me by phone a couple weeks ago, before the record came out. “The most fun I had, and the best ideas are when I’m not having to be ‘on.’ I just turn on the mic and the craziest sh*t will come out of my mouth. Or, I’m just goofing around, having fun for myself. There’s something really liberating about having a pure joyful moment on record, and selfishly, I wanted to have as many of those as possible this time around.”
At its core, Imitation is an album about these very selfish, specific moments that define a single woman in her late twenties and early thirties. The strangely static, almost abrasive quality of the noise elements on her album feels necessary then, to evoke the uncertainty of female loneliness; a romantic urge expressed creatively, even the capability to attain that status — a woman in the prime of her life, and alone — is only a few decades old. Imitation is about deep lust and creative frustration, loneliness, self-discovery, and partners who can’t quite be made to fit. It’s about sex and fear and satisfaction, and it’s a majestic, magnetic, and marvelously sad record. It’s about being a woman, and one of the few records of its kind that reflect solely a woman’s input on that experience.