The COVID-19 pandemic bubbled up right about the time Polartropica released her effervescent debut album “Dreams Come True.” Dive into her intergalactic faerie world as she shares what’s cookin’ (activism and baked goods) and a playful-but-serious playlist in today’s QUARANTUNES.
THE LATEST FROM POLARTROPICA
This March brought the long-awaited release of “Dreams Come True,” the smart, stylish debut album from singer-songwriter Ihui Cherise Wu’s project Polartropica. It’s effervescent synth-pop from the artist’s intergalactic faerie world, filled with tales of people and animals and informed by current events and Wu’s experiences as a queer Asian-American living in California.
The singer delivers everything with sparkles, vocally and otherwise (see the interview below), but look past all the neon and pastel colors and there’s a seriousness behind the smiles. “Wild Lyfe” (which features Jett Kwong on a Chinese zither), is about how humans treat animals. The synths go marching in on “Solidarity” — “Don’t let them divide us, we can accomplish incredible things when we fight together and support one another,” Wu says — and “Can’t Hold Us Back” preaches a similar sermon.
“In Another Life” crystallizes the feeling of new love; “Crystal Ramen” picks through the shards of a broken one. And “Disco Daydream” is the sweetest of the album’s sugary escapisms, one of those brighteners that could come in handy during quarantine. Of the making of the album, Wu says: “I get to play and work with some of the most incredibly wonderful people in the entire universe, and we always try to have as much fun as possible.” It sounds like it.
HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MANAGE THE ‘STAY AT HOME’ EDICT?
My heart is broken from all of the police brutality and violence we are seeing, both from national events and our local L.A. community from the protests. It is so revealing how embedded the oppression and racism is built into our system, in the way events are unfolding, but I feel like we are all learning so much. The band is doing whatever we can to help uplift and support the Black Lives Matter movement for defunding the police and transitioning to community care and resources for our most vulnerable and under-served Black, brown and homeless communities.
I’ve also been baking for my new quarantine project PolarMidori with film and music video director Yoko Okumura. We make wholesome, gluten-free and vegan brownies and lemon bars, delivered with sparkles and love. A lot of people have been ordering for friends as gifts, and we’ve also been taking donations for and giving out free care packages to those on the front line with priority to our Black/trans/organizer friends that need the special care at this time.
I’ve been doing some livestreams and benefits when I can — the latest one was a fundraiser hosted by DASH Radio for Breonna Taylor over Twitch. For PRIDE streams this month, we’ve chosen to use our sets to elevate our incredibly talented Black queer artists from the community. We are starting to lay down new tracks for the next record, and there are also some music videos on the way as well.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WHEN THIS IS OVER?
Looking forward to hugging all of my friends, visiting my family and going on tour with the homies! Sending out so much love and sparkles to everyone.
ANYTHING WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PLAYLIST?
A mix of dreamy, meditative songs to riot grrrl music to nostalgic teen dreams to French vacation music to art-pop and the most visual anthem that was incredible when it came out after Hurricane Katrina and still sits with us today. I just remember the part in the music video when they put their hands up and it reads “stop shooting us.” To quote Beyoncé: “It’s about a black future [where] we are imagining ourselves having power and magic, and I think it’s beautiful.”