Gus Dapperton develops modern synth-pop with “Orca”

The New York native explores new sounds with a strong influence from the despairing tone of social isolation


Gus Dapperton (Jess Farran)

Sophie Edelman

“Orca,” released Sept. 18, is the second studio release from singer-songwriter and “Gen Z” aesthetic aficionado Gus Dapperton. It follows his first full studio album, “Where Polly People Go To Read,” which was produced under record label AWAL (which has signed other Gen Z artists such as Lauv and girl in red). 

Dapperton skyrocketed to fame after releasing EPs “Prune You Talk Funny” and “I’m Just Snacking,” which encapsulated the dreamy and warped tones of modern synth-pop.

As a fashion-forward artist, Dapperton relies heavily on an innovative stage presence, so releasing an album during a socially isolated time was bound to be interesting. He utilized his Gen Z influence with a multiple music video release for the track “First Aid,” based on the TikTok trend of manipulating music for specific settings, such as “in the club bathroom.” The album’s desperate lyrics, slow backbeat and explosive shifts in tone and volume act as an exploration of the back-and forth-feelings of isolation and loneliness we are all experiencing. 

Starting with “Bottle Opener,” the album oozes surf rock. Heavy on guitar with an easy flowing melody, it is not a particularly grabbing nor offensive track. 

“First Aid” was released as a single and reminds me a lot of early Vampire Weekend hits, relying on a constant background chorus. Dapperton has often been quoted by music critics as creating a nostalgic sound and this song definitely refers to early 90s grunge influences. The call-and-response is really well produced, making it an easy and enjoyable listen.

The track “Post Humerus” was also released as a single and brings to mind early 2000s folk rock such as Bright Eyes. The lyrics are unique to the rest of the album, referencing the darker turn modern synth-pop has taken. Similar to popular tracks such as “Deathbed” by Powfu, Dapperton’s lyrics “So make me laugh / As for my last request / If I don’t take it back / Would you ignore my last request?” reflect this demanding tone.

The sounds of the xylophone on “My Say So” allow for some lightness in the album, and it’s the only track featuring another artist: Chela. An Australian singer-songwriter known for her alternative rock tracks such as “Romanticise,” her voice compliments Dapperton’s but fails to add a wow-factor to the album. “Grim” uses a scream style of singing paired with a grating drum and guitar backtrack, reminding me of The Frights. Not a favorite of mine, but at least it’s short compared to others in the album—some of which are almost 5 minutes long. The final tracks flow into each other easily, ending on a big, dreamy vocal note. “Swan Song” has memorable lyrics and a deeper bass, similar to some of The Grinns’ work surrounding the staple sound of modern synth-pop like “Why Do You Lie.”

In general, the first few tracks signify a development for Dapperton. His music sounds much more produced overall, relying less on the distinct vocals of his early music and more on backbeats and the surrounding music. I see this as a move in the right direction, as it shows Dapperton becoming a more complicated and sophisticated artist. “Palms” delivers a much-needed break from the high intensity of the first few tracks on the album. It refers to Dapperton’s earlier songs, devoid of swelling beats and relying on his high pitch vocals, but still signifies development. The three succeeding beats in the melody leaves this track stuck in your head and earns its place on your “study time” playlist. 

Overall, “Orca” represents an interesting development musically for Dapperton. I’m eager to see whether or not his stage performance has adapted and matured alongside it— once he’s finally able to perform these tracks live. If he ever makes it down to Nashville, the Hustler’s Life staff will be sure to keep you in the loop. Stay tuned!