One of the best things to come out in 2018 was the debut album Kill Yr Frenemies by Illuminati Hotties. The album came out of nowhere for many of us and it was such a wonderful surprise. Sarah Tudzin and company balanced jumpy power pop with some absolutely devastating heartbreaks. The record immediately established Tudzin as a songwriter and producer to watch and the band was thrust into the spotlight touring with such acts like American Football and PUP. When their record label, Tiny Engines, became the focus of some irresponsible business practices, Tudzin was forced into the unenviable position of having to buy back the band’s second unreleased records masters back from the label. Tudzin has since described this moment for her as “the most tail-between-my-legs thing I’ve ever done.” This experience and the feelings associated with it inspired Tudzin to create one of the best records that will come out in this god forsaken year. Described more as a mixtape rather than a proper sophomore release, Free I.H.: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For, is a blast from front to back. The record effortlessly jumps between genres, is filled with some genuinely hilarious moments and distills not only Tudzin’s struggle with being a working musician, a creative stuck between the artistic and business worlds but is also immediately relatable to any artist who has had to stick their neck out to get their voice heard.
The album kicks off with “will i get cancelled if i write a song called, ‘if you were a man, you’d probably be cancelled’,” and a powerful explosion of jagged guitars and pummeling drums. Inspired by a conversation she had with Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz about how trapped she was feeling by the arrangement with her former label, the song sets the tone for the rest of the record with that particular theme. The whole album rockets by, twelve songs clocking in at 28 minutes. Don’t let the lean running time make you think that the record is without any depth at all. This is a very personal statement from Tudzin and she is so deft at songwriting that you can immediately relate to her emotional state from track to track. “freequent letdown” is about the insecurity of being an artist and the impossible standards that you hold yourself to. When Tudzin sings in the songs refrain, “I’m always letting everyone down” the sentiment hits hard. On “free dumb”, a song that was shockingly written before the pandemic hit and lockdown happened, Tudzin sings over a hazy, dreamy soundscape, “While the world burns, why would you care about a fucking record” and “there was no love lost until you deemed that I was non essential” and while she is using her talents to be honest while remaining somewhat tongue in cheek, the song is a powerful statement about being an artist in a world where there is always something that seems more important. “content//bedtime” is all about the trying to find the balance between constantly having to create content and just living your life and shows that there are certain occupations, like being a musician, where the idea of doing it as a 9 to 5 is an absolute impossibility. “freeforall” is a concrete type noise experiment that would normally not make it onto a “proper” release but here fits perfectly in the slot its been given. “K – HOT AM 818” is a parody of an AM Radio bumper, where Tudzin slips in the PSA “Hang onto your masters, folks”. It’s a fun and funny interstitial between tracks akin to the type of ‘skits’ popularized on 90s hip hop albums.
Free I.H.: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For may have been something that Tudzin made because of the feelings of frustration and helplessness she felt because of the business circumstances she found herself in but it is a true showcase for how much of a huge talent she is. Throughout all the genre exercises and experimental tangents the record comes across as perfectly cohesive. It’s a powerful statement and one that leaves us asking, if this isn’t the record we were actually supposed to hear then then imagine how special that one must be. While we await the answer to this, Free I.H.: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For is here and while it may not be the one we are waiting for, it’s definitely the one we needed. Damn The Man.
review by Adam Fink