- Sega Bodega folds garage and trance into a set of off-kilter love songs.
- Sega Bodega is nothing if not versatile. His songs have grown from an early headrush of angular, club-leaning beats to a style of pop that carefully folds in a myriad of influences—trip-hop, grunge, trance, garage and even power ballads. But the most important progression across his catalogue has been his personal evolution. As he makes the transition from producer to singer-songwriter, his music grows more personal, more specific and more confident in pushing emotions to the fore. The more music he puts out, the more sides of himself he reveals and the better we get to know him.
The shift started on 2018's self*care. Its beats were sludgy, hallucinogenic and playful. Tracks like "Daddy" carried a brash confidence offset by processed vocal hooks that hinted at a pivot into softer, more melodramatic moods. When he properly stepped out into the spotlight on last year's Salvador, stripping away some of the aggression to make space for his voice, Bodega wore his anxieties and insecurities on his sleeve. That record's emotional weight was echoed in its videos. In most, he's front and center but singing from some confined space, tensely (and sometimes quite literally) exorcising his demons on camera.
In comparison, the first moments of Romeo are an explosive outburst of celebratory energy. Opener "Effeminacy" tumbles in with a barrage of hardstyle kicks, euphoric pads and pianos, an immediate departure from his usual sense of grayscale melancholy. That's not to say the vulnerability is gone, but on Romeo, Bodega looks outward, writing a set of love songs with feelings that are firm and direct. On "Um Um," a chorus of 20 Bodegas coos, "I am at a loss at how to deal with so much love… I see you in everything, even though you're not around." And on a mid-album ballad, he sounds absolutely positive when he belts out "I Need Nothing From You."
The production choices only underline Romeo's newfound confidence. Some of self*care's unruly energy is back, though presented with more mature textures. There are signs of a new intimacy. Most of the beats contain sounds that are unmistakably human, like "Angel On My Shoulder"'s handclaps, "Effeminacy"'s beatboxing or the gurgles and throat noises that are strewn across the album's tracks. The sometimes delicate, sometimes visceral nature of these sounds is a clever contrast to the more electronic and exultant moments. The chorus of "Angel On My Shoulder" brings to mind EDM festival stages, and midway through "Cicada" a slinking lead line punches through that sounds like a synth from a dabke song filtered through a wheezing distortion pedal. Later, "Naturopathe" features the LP's most unpredictable but gratifying stylistic jump—into an alien reconstruction of 2010s-era bassline-driven deep house.
All of these moments come together for an emotionally complex but ultimately hopeful record. Just last year, a red-haired Sega Bodega appeared on the cover of Salvador submerged underwater, eyes closed, struggling to breathe and surrounded by an empty void. Now, in every piece of artwork that accompanies Romeo, we find the artist in familiar spaces, but his face looks less pained, his body a little more relaxed. Whether the glowing celestial being that accompanies him is real or a figment of his imagination, one thing's for certain: he's no longer alone.
02. Angel On My Shoulder
03. All Of Your Friends Think I'm Too Young For You
04. Only Seeing God When I Come
05. I Need Nothing From You
06. Naturophane feat. Charlotte Gainsbourg
07. Cicada feat. Arca
09. Um Um