Introducing his own vocals into his music for the first time, nineteen-year-old NYC-based artist Aidan Peterson, better known as Instupendo, crafts a soft, effervescent soundscape for the listener to wholly immerse in on Boys by Girls.
As I sit with computer pixels burning my eyes and thoughts of warm summer air, a shimmery item on the other side of the room catches my eye. Those old enough to remember would recognize the now-artifactual object as a computer disc, or CD. I’m looking at the backside, and as I change my perspective, the reflected light bounces off of the film layers in a spectrum of colors, blending pale pinks among neon greens. With the newest release from musical protege Instupendo, Boys by Girls, coming through my headphones, I think I’ve found the perfect metaphor to convey the experience that is listening to his music: it’s at once kaleidoscopic and minimalistic. The production blends a level of talent beyond Peterson’s nineteen years of age while maintaining a lo-fi aesthetic that doesn’t lack integrity. Lyrically, the album sustains continuity surrounding personal identity and the balancing act of relationships. The words reflect Peterson’s youth, as he injects conversational banter in surprisingly poetic fashion. Considering Boys by Girls marks Peterson’s first foray into vocal arrangement, the feat is notably impressive.
With Boys by Girls, Philadelphia-raised and now NYC-based Instupendo notches his third project among a quickly growing discography. Coming off of a strong five-track EP Faces I Know, BBG introduces Peterson’s vocals into the mix and recognizes a development in musical maturity that’s seldom found among his peers, teenage or not. At just seven tracks and nineteen minutes, BBG features nuanced instrumentals graced by Peterson’s vocals in a refreshingly unique approach.
Peterson’s incredibly refined sonic and aesthetic sensibility for the music and art he creates shines through on BBG. In an age of artistic polymaths such as Tyler, the Creator, Devonte Hynes of Blood Orange, or Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi (a collaborator of Peterson’s), Instupendo is making a name for himself with an innovative vision. With the visuals for lead singles “Cinderella and “Antidote,” director James Rönkkö and Peterson translate lush soundscapes into equally beautiful moving-image worlds. Visually, “Cinderella” is composed primarily of pale light and earthy tones, painted with the deep violet of a puffer jacket and the bold magenta of a pull-down backdrop. Peterson operates a vintage Mercedes, takes a call from a transparent landline, and stands ominously in a barren field with clouds looming overhead. The visual for “Antidote” is a mix of cross-fades, choppy frame cuts, and harsh lighting as Peterson and co. stage a runway show dressed in black garb and gently ensconced in warm light.
BBG opens with “Entrance,” characterized by a building sonic profile and a single stanza of lyrics that sets the tone for the following tracks: “But don’t ruin this for me / Even if we disagree / I’ll be right here / And I’ll be right here, here.” Peterson begins the EP at a near whisper of delicate nonchalance and rarely exceeds that, blending his vocals as an instrument among the layers of tracks, most apparent on “Antidote,” where he chops his voice up to support a driving bassline. More pop-inspired, “Cinderella” prominently features vocals over deep synths, bouncy drums, and electronic fills. “Pinch” and “Sugar” are the two instrumental-only tracks on the EP, with the former layering shimmering keys over house-inspired bass and the latter weaving a faded melodic line with building percussion to close the project. While Peterson delivers vocals in a syncopated, hip-hop inspired delivery on “Talk,” with “Earring,” he croons over the pre-chorus, “Do you feel it sitting in / When he’s miles away / Do you feel it sitting in / I’m right here.”
With BBG, Peterson has created a unique word for introverts to escape to, and he does so in the most nuanced, beautiful way possible. At just nineteen years old, he’s begun to pioneer a unique space in music at the intersection of a myriad genres and styles. Lyrically, Peterson’s first experiment with word is thoughtful but not exhausting: he utilizes his young age and introspective perspective to infuse youthful lexicon into themes of masculinity and acceptance. BBG is a testament to Instupendo’s sonic and aesthetic aptitude and evidence of his limitless potential for growth.
Listen to Boys by Girls here.