It’s easy to get lost in particular nooks of the Philly music scene. Within a few blocks radius of where I’m sitting, there’s a coffee shop that blasts Screaming Females in the morning, a basement venue with metal shows every other night, three tattoo shops, two vegan donut joints, and – inexplicably – an anarchist street artist who tags “gay chaos” on every mailbox in town. I do love this strange bubble of a neighborhood, but I’ll happily let Sophie Coran‘s “Saltwater” burst it, adding something fresh and unexpected to my small corner of this city.
Lauded on NPR as one of “10 Artists You Should Know from Philadelphia,” Coran describes herself as a “Noir & B” artist, incorporating elements of jazz, soul, and pop into her own admirably ambitious sound. She could rock a dive bar as easily as an expansive theater; her music is best accompanied by a grand piano and a brass ensemble, but she could make it work on an electronic keyboard just fine.
Sophie Coran started garnering attention around Philadelphia after releasing the All That Matters EP in 2018. Themed around her experience working in restaurants, the powerful EP is adorned with retro diner graphics. There’s an aesthetic sensibility to her work – her rooftop sessions pluck Lana Del Rey from Venice Beach and drop her on the deck of a Fishtown loft. Coran thrives when she channels her eclectic songwriting through visual means, so it’s no surprise that the new music video for her single “Saltwater” is so captivating. Directed by Philadelphia’s own William DeJessa of Rittenhouse Filmworks, “Saltwater” is dark, dreamy, and evocative.
In “Saltwater,” Coran describes the alienating experience of growing up: “I measure every thought in fear, it’s not the right one/And further from the shore I steer, lost in the ocean.” She’s not the first writer to compare loneliness to floating through the ocean, but her surprising musical arrangements make the concept feel more fresh. Its verses sound like a jazzier Billie Eilish with a wider vocal range; its choruses feel oddly victorious, despite their melancholy lyrics. If you have a short attention span, you’ll love Sophie Coran – her clever song structures will keep you on your toes.
The music video for “Saltwater,” equally glamorous as it is vulnerable, offers us a first look into what this next phase of Coran’s style might look like. Like a pop star, Coran is showered with sparklers, glitter and confetti. Then, against a backdrop of moving water, she looks like a mermaid as she’s “swimming upstream.” In these tight shots, Coran sings directly into the camera, inviting us into her world. But before we can dwell on this image of a star in the spotlight, the shot pans out to show a “behind-the-scenes” look at how the music video was filmed. In the midst of a dark film studio, Coran sits on a stool, illuminated by intense spotlights. The further we zoom out, the darker and lonelier Coran seems.
In a press release, director William DeJessa says, “I wanted to show a sense of nostalgia and yearning as well as a celebration of life.” It’s clever to break the fourth wall on “Saltwater,” because it allows us to see two sides of the musician: her burgeoning stardom and vulnerability are intertwined, inviting us to dwell on what artists – particularly, women solo acts – must work through before they find themselves drowning in a sea of glitter and confetti.