Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern’s brand of jungle pop—quotable pop hooks and snatches of Portuguese poetry set to club-friendly beats—might have emerged from the dying embers of the EDM movement, but the New York City-based duo’s multi-culti dance tunes owe more to early-1990s house acts like Deee-Lite than David Guetta. The songs on Sofi Tukker’s Treehouse are alternately playful and sincere, intimate and global: “Fuck They” challenges the status quo, while “Baby I’m a Queen” embraces the contradictions and ambiguities of third-wave feminism.
Like the Chainsmokers, Sofi Tukker spent the years preceding the release of their debut realizing and honing their sound across a series of singles, remixes, and digital EPs. Treehouse nudges the pair away from the underground club fare of 2016’s Soft Animals EP and in a more obvious pop direction. There’s nothing quite as ambitious as the Grammy-nominated “Drinkee” or as ruminative as “Moon Tattoo” here. The album’s lyrics, often adapted from the works of Brazilian poets like Paulo Leminski, can feel repetitive, and the influence of other artists too apparent: Calvin Harris on “My Body Hurts,” Dr. Luke-era Kesha on “Good Time Girl,” and a deadpan nod to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” on the bass-driven “Batshit” that makes Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” sound like an understated homage.
But these songs are all about the groove. “My Body Hurts” positively pulses, culminating in a bridge and breakdown punctuated by Hawley-Weld’s expressive guitar solo. The album’s potential sleeper hit, though, is “Benadryl,” a wistful midtempo track that highlights the group’s wry sense of humor: “I lost my sanity with my socks/One at a time, I barely noticed.” Though Sofi Tukker’s mélange of disparate sounds and influences—bossa-nova rhythms, cowbells, castanets, and spaghetti-western guitars—lends Treehouse an air of worldly sophistication, Hawley-Weld and Halpern never take themselves or their music too seriously. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.