Sophie Henry

Remi Wolf might be losing her mind. In her debut album “Juno,” which came out on Oct. 15, Wolf drags her listeners through the ins and outs of her relationships, addictions and revenge plots, building a surrealist dreamscape with electric and colorful sound. The upbeat songs on “Juno” are easy to dance to, but Wolf laces her frenetic lyrics and bright melodies with jarring divulgences of depression you might miss if you’re not paying attention. 

Wolf’s life is a dizzying whirlwind. In “Liquor Store,” she twirls around, sings about tattoos and fun characters, and even manages to sneak a modified elementary school rhyme into her lyrics. But her voice unravels by the end of the song, as her repetition of “I want more” takes on a new meaning, revealing Wolf’s deep gnawing for another kind of life, aggravated by her struggles with sobriety and her insecurity that her partner is cheating on her. In “Quiet on Set,” the album’s wackiest song, Wolf runs through the craziness of her days — having an orgy at Five Guys, stealing sports cars and ordering Chuck E. Cheese — but reveals that this nonstop motion is driving her crazy and leaving her so bored she feels she might die. “I been fucked in the head, frontin’/ I ain’t leavin’ my bed, love it/ The work be killin’ me dead, bang bang,” she sings. In “Guerrilla,” Wolf steps into a party on the Lower East Side with an “itty bitty chance of having a good time” and shakes in front of a crowd that can’t get enough of her. Even though she is “hiding her mind,” Wolf leans into the chaos of the night. 

Wolf seems haunted by the numbing frenzy of her days, the meaninglessness of her time. In “Anthony Kiedis,” she chafes against the paralysis of the pandemic world, which has left her feeling cloudy, friendless, depressed, and a little insane. “I don’t have feelings,” she sings three times. She cries for help, but only after a mindless chorus of groovy “Na-na-na”s. “Put my mind at ease, oh, please/ I’m begging, make it stop,” she calls out, hoping another person will carry her away from her numbing reality. “I could be your dream girl,” she sings. “Nothing feels as it seems/ But we could make a dream world.” 

Trapped within her daily life, Wolf longs to build a fantasy world for herself. Throughout “Juno,” she creates all kinds of dream worlds as refuges. Almost always, these fantasies are realized through relationships with other people. Wolf’s implication is clear: life feels empty, but maybe intimacy can save her. 

Her most explicit attempt to build a fantasy relationship is “Buzz Me In,” the album’s second-to-last track which is filled with bubbling excitement as Wolf stands at the gate to her hookup’s house, waiting for him to buzz her in, dancing in anticipation of the thrill to come. “We never had a lot to say/ But somehow we communicate and/ I’m coming for you,” she sings. At first listen, this song is a lighthearted melody about the simple joys of a casual hookup, but of course, it is complicated by Wolf’s signature melancholy. She opens the song by admitting that this relationship is a fantasy, but she and her lover “lie lie lie” that it isn’t when they’re together. Wolf knows this can’t last, but she’s here because this hookup is an escape from the meaninglessness of her days, from her tears that taste “like wasted time.” She gives herself to her lover, telling him, “Baby take me/ I don’t wanna have control/ Cause lately baby/ I don’t know me anymore/ I don’t feel it anymore.” 

But these fantasy relationships can’t last. In “Guerilla,” Wolf escapes a chaotic and inauthentic party scene for a vulnerable moment with a potential new lover. In the music video for the song, Wolf steps into an elevator with a guy she’s excited about, and the two of them nervously brush each other’s fingers and smile before starting to make out. “I really like you when I/ stare into both of your eyes,” she sings quietly. But she’s still guarded and insecure — she admits that she’s terrified and tells him, “You just do what you like/ You feel like simpler times.” Suddenly, the guy she’s with starts aggressively licking her face and as Wolf pulls away in disgust, the scene explodes into chaos: the elevator plummets, the lights flicker, the two of them fall to the ground, and the music returns to the crackling intensity of the song’s earlier verses. The fantasy crumbles.

In “Front Tooth,” the album’s centerpiece, Wolf reckons with a fantasy that doesn’t live up to her expectations. She sings of a relationship that is a constant struggle, which confuses her because this isn’t part of the dream world she signed up for. “This don’t feel like quite/ Like it’s supposed to,” Wolf admits. She’s with someone who she thinks is “the air I need,” “the love I breathe,” and “the bed I sleep in,” but she still feels numb. So numb that she lies down on the floor of her shower, turns on the water, and waits for the pressure to awaken some feeling inside her. “Wake my body up!” she sings four times in a row during each chorus, the beat splintering with static beneath her words, blurring the line between forceful command and desperate plea. And “Front Tooth” isn’t the only failed fantasy intimacy Wolf shares in her album. In “Buttermilk,” she feels like her partner is “pulling me out of the gutter / Then throwing me into the lava.” She blames herself for the flaws in their relationship, an idea which she expands on in “Grumpy Old Man,” when she croons about her self-sabotaging defensiveness that prevents her from a connection where “nothin’ feels better/ Than me and you.”

When these fantasies don’t live up to her expectations, Wolf is worse off. In “Sally,” she is cleaning dishes alone in her kitchen, waiting for a text, terrified that her relationship with an elusive mystery person — Sally — is just a “premonition.” In those moments when Sally is silent, Wolf can’t help but question whether their relationship is even real. “I don’t wanna waste another / I don’t wanna waste another night,” she sings, unwilling to continue waiting on Sally but also unwilling to return to the hollowness of a pre-Sally life. She is moving so fast and she wants to be intentional about her time, but she still ends the song “waiting up another night.”

The album ends with “Street You Live On,” a dreamy breakup song about Wolf trying to avoid the neighborhood where her ex lives. She floats around the streets of Los Angeles resisting the magnetic tug her ex has on her. She feels numb again: “I’m an empty drawer, not borrowing your socks anymore.” Her vision is narrow, focused only on avoiding her ex: “I’m a paper map rerouting different ways to the store.”And she can’t stop thinking about them: “I’m a feral cat, I’m licking up the milk at your door.” At the end of her story — her constant struggle to find meaning in reality and her many failed attempts at dream-like intimacies — Wolf is spending her days “wasting away.” 

But even as the crumbling of her relationships and the unraveling of her fantasies try to break her, Wolf remains resilient through heartbreak and insists on her own independence.  She knows that her self-worth doesn’t depend on other people. In “wyd,” she turns her anger to “all these little bitches telling me what to do” and asserts that she doesn’t need anyone else’s validation. In “Volkiano,” Wolf emerges from a post-breakup depression and ends her song with an angry dissociative bridge. “Get out of my head, I/ Get out of my bed,” she sings. It’s a marked shift from her earlier pre-“Juno” songs, where she relies on people to keep her “level like a pile of laundry” or thinks their “love could take me away from here.” Even while drowning in boredom and bad decisions, “Juno” is ringing with Remi’s agency and self-reliance.