On their 2019 EP Girl Kiss, Ahomari paid tribute to their Black queer experience in the form of a lo-fi electro-pop epic–loaded with spacy synths that crackle with unfulfilled desire for love within and without the self. This year, they returned with the next installment, the album-length Girl Kiss II (Quiet Year Records), and it stands taller than the original in every way. The beats hit harder, the shadows are darker, and at the same time, as it continues to chronicle Ahomari coming into their sexuality, it approaches Girl Kiss’ themes with a new level of confidence and comfort in its own skin.
The original EP opens with a title track for the saga, as Ahomari laments a friendship that could be something more–that is, the be-all, end-all partnership. Girl Kiss II opens with “Crush,” which feels almost like a direct response as Ahomari tries to keep a crush on a friend more casual. As they sing in a call-and-response vocal with Brooklyn rapper Taphari, “Don’t rush a thing, just take it slow / if it’s meant to be, then it’ll grow.” (Though as in real relationships, nothing is that cut and dry, and as the album goes on, the emotional stakes rise). Ahomari also shows off a more polished and processed vocal production–it ranges from silky-smooth harmonies to a staticky crunch.
And often when Girl Kiss II plumbs the dark synth depths of its predecessor, it’s for fun, as in the slinking 303-style bass of “My Vibe.” “You know what you need / It’s Ahomari, baby,” they croon at the climax of one of the record’s most sultry vocals. And that marks one of the biggest shifts of the sequel project: Ahomari exploring their potential as the subject of desire and not just the one pining. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in there, though there’s also the unwanted attention, as in “Femme on Femme (Interlude),” which employs a super-crushed, hard-edged beat as Ahomari puts their foot down and revels in laying out what they need–and what they don’t–from a partner.
In moments like that, they take ownership of what Girl Kiss was building towards; the sense that knowing what you want and asserting it can be as powerful in the grand scheme as it is frustrating in the moment. But like the best sequels, Girl Kiss II also leaves plenty unresolved, as in the finale, “Closecloseclose.” It’s the project’s most open-ended, exploratory track, leaving out percussion almost entirely, focusing on Ahomari’s vocals–still personal, no matter how many effects and distortions they pile on top–and thoughtful guitar chords.
There’s a moment at the end of the track when everything fades out, and you can hear Ahomari let out a deep, auto-tuned exhale, the aftermath of all that heart-spilling, and it’s just one of the points where Girl Kiss II feels so much more at home with vulnerability as well as empowerment. The story is still unfolding; there’s a third installment on the way, and there’s no shortage of ground left to cover. As the title track “Girl Kiss II (Outro)” shows, Ahomari has a real talent for expanding on old sounds and themes, rearranging them into exciting new shapes. Boldly emotional and aesthetically adventurous, it casts Ahomari as the DIY diva we need.