Standing in the shadow of Beyoncé is no easy task, but it only adds to the enigma of Boots, the mysterious writer behind much of her eponymous 2013 album. Since then, the singer-songwriter (born Jordy Asher) gradually peeled back the layers of his secret identity with the R&B-inflected dreamscape Winter Spring Summer Fall, a mixtape that approximated the creative versatility of his work with the global superstar.
His sound is more defined and industrial on debut album Aquaria, a dark, often abrasive set that suffers from stiff uniformity. With collaborators like El-P, he opens the album with the pitter-pattering “Brooklyn Gamma,” chanting, “Break ground, start again” — an ironic refrain, given the songwriting formulas used throughout. (“Oracles” and “Aquaria” sound particularly similar.) But when he tampers with his recipe it’s worth the wait: On hazy closer “Still,” Boots lets the music breathe, drops the faceless automaton routine and recalls the best, most experimental moments on Beyoncé’s opus.