As the sun sets over the southwestern skyline, I press play on Census Designated, Jane Remover’s newest album. The tips of the trees poke holes in the sky, letting orange yellow light spill out from behind the clouds. I can feel my thoughts drifting back to the Midwest and back to my own beginnings; teenage angst, anger, fear, change, all rushing over me like a rogue wave. And I’ve only made it three minutes into the first song.
Jane Remover is an artist from New Jersey that pioneered a popular subgenre in emo and dance music called Dariacore with her many different projects, working as Leroy as well as Dltzk, releasing music in the EDM genre from 2019 to mid June 2021. Following this, she released her debut studio album Frailty via DeadAir Records as Jane Remover, which features glitchy, bit-crushed vocals and instruments laced with a hyperpop edge that made it equal parts danceable and relevant to today’s sound.
Frailty was well received for its digital fuzz and charming character, but on September 20th, 2023, Jane released the title track to promote her next album, “Census Designated.” This song was an emo tinged, electrically strung love ballad about betrayal, abuse, love, and personal identity. With lyrics like “And I bet she’s so lucky to have a voice like that, I’m young blood fresh meat and I like that”, Remover explores the trapped, insecure, inexperience that the narrator has in this relationship, perhaps a jealousy that someone else is more able to speak freely of than her. As the track continues, we get this guitar riff accented with amp feedback, sinking us into this stimulating experience that Remover created, “The way it ends, you hold me like fifty thousand bills in your hand, like I’m the princess of Ocean City.”
“Census Designated” ends with a cacophony of noise, glitch, and feedback, building into a climax of euphoric, distorted pleasure. Remover’s screams and vocals blend into the noise to create a unification of the digital and the real. This is a concept Remover explores throughout her discography; the blending of real life and the online world, and the troubles, dangers, and tribulations that can come from that both on and offline.
The album itself, also titled Census Designated, released October 20th. This album, in contrast to Frailty, offers less digitally obscured ballads, and instead spends a lot more time with cleaner vocals from Remover as well as these heavy walls of guitar that lead the entire album, giving it an emo and shoegaze-like edge. The opening song, “Cage Girl/Camgirl,” opens with a low, effect heavy moan from Remover, which then descends into themes about connection in a toxic relationship, and feeling trapped and objectified, before being ultimately discarded after being used for fulfillment. The refrain “Chew me up, spit me out before I can swallow” reinforces this idea, signifying our protagonist’s search for connection results in a consumption of the goodness of our narrator.
One of my favorite songs off the album, “Idling Somewhere,” is a much different track, much more of a rock ballad with digital elements in the periphery that explores self destructive behaviors and the role of power in relationships. This repeated line in the opening, “He can’t stop watching me, I dance, I dance, I dance,” suggests the narrator is oddly aware that they’re being manipulated by someone who has more power over them. The chorus explores themes of a desire for control and agency but also explores self deprecation; lyrics like, “Half a mind, half a brain, but just enough so it’s hard” and “Watch me down, know I’m bad, I always get what I want” feel that the narrator knows the wrongness of their desires to be with this person, but that doesn’t stop them. This track delves into the complex exploration of power dynamics and the consequences of toxic relationships, with haunting lyrics at the end representing a complete loss of body autonomy.
“Video” opens with a near minute long harsh noise section, almost playing off the end of Census Designated’s ending, before it fades into much gentler vocals from Remover. She said of the song, “Video is about striving and running towards the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s told through this story of a guy and a girl, the girl’s watching the guy play with himself online, and she tries to track him down and look for this guy in real life. But when they meet, he ends up taking advantage of her.” This idea of a one sided online relationship being initially perceived as good but devolving into abuse plays out throughout the song with desperate lyrics like, “If I could write a pop song, I’d get you to steer in my direction, I’d get you to start chasing after me like it was already in your head.” This song is about the idea of following light, but the following of the light is what ended up hurting our narrator.
Census Designated is a much more large scale album about coming out of the tunnel of power struggle and perseverance with a triumphant victory, while still remembering the scars brought on by circumstance, whereas Frailty resembles a bright young mind ready to face the world, dominated by an upbringing on the internet and a mild disconnect from social structures of real life. If these two albums are the same person, Census Designated is Frailty after having spent time away from home, and realizing that place doesn’t fit you anymore.
For me, Census Designated by Jane Remover is an album about being of age. Of seeing the world after being sheltered for so long, and making mistakes, and being used, and the complexities of toxic and controlling relationships. But it’s also about finding your way out of that darkness, knowing yourself and your identity, even if it may seem like the end of the line. The closing track, “Contingency Song,” seems to signify succumbing to this toxicity and abuse, but on the other hand, I feel the narrator has begun to realize that the cycle of use, abuse, and discarding of the narrator is a downward spiral that will only hurt her more and more. With the last line of the album, “I don’t think I can do it anymore” we begin to see a hopeful break in the pattern of youthful tragedy.
Jane Remover’s Census Designated is available now everywhere.