Pema is the latest project from Alex Cohen, frontwoman of Austin’s careening, guitar-driven pop band Alex Napping. Cohen’s always had a pop sensibility, only now she’s fully embracing it—she’s said the persona of Pema was born on the stage of a local karaoke bar. She delved into the world of electronic pop music for Pema’s forthcoming debut full-length, Doublethink, though she hasn’t by any means traded in her guitar.
“My Intentions Are Good” is a promising introduction to Pema, a pure pop song that sounds ultra-light and triumphant even as it works through some harder feelings. Cohen’s smooth backing vocals serve as a clean springboard for the soaring melody and an outgrowth of bright guitars and trumpets. As she circles the question of how to navigate a relationship that still feels undefined, her voice only collects power, starting to glow with assurance even before that assurance has been granted in the lyrics. “How can I tell if I’m doing it wrong / am I doing this right?” she asks, her sprawling vocal harmonies hearkening to Dirty Projectors over the big drum-and-tambourine beat. In writing Doublethink—named for Orwell’s Newspeak term—Cohen was thinking about the discrepancies in what we think and how we actually behave. “In the face of uncertainty, it’s common for our thoughts and our actions to be wildly inconsistent,” she says. Even when we have good intentions, it’s easy to let others down and to be let down ourselves. Luckily, Cohen seems to have hit the mark with her intentions for this one.
Pema’s Doublethink is due out June 3 on Wishy Washy Records. You can stream “My Intentions Are Good” below.