Plot twist of the decade: sometimes we — “we” being whatever exactly makes for a critic in the era of online criticism — get it wrong. As most any writer will admit, the average review, even with the benefit of time spent with advance copies is, more or less, a first take, if not simply a gut reaction.

This isn’t to say anyone has gotten Kelsey Lu’s Blood particularly wrong, but given the excitement that circled her 2016 EP, Church, the reception has been perhaps quieter than expected.

Needless to say, debuts are a notoriously tricky beast. Artists lucky enough to engage with the double-edged sword of hype before even reaching a formative statement are left to fend with preconceptions of who they are, and what they want to do, from offerings, at times, as paltry as a few songs.

The relative confusion, from some, regarding Blood seems easy enough to trace: Church, while emotive, was grand and somewhat carefully distanced, Lu cutting nearly an imposing figure. She was immediately intriguing, bizarre upbringing included (it involves a cult, do look it up), but maintained a certain shroud, limiting both what she herself was willing to feel on record, and what we felt from what she chose to share.

On Blood, Kelsey Lu feels everything. Right on down to her confident, yet dazed, expression on the (apologies) bare cover art, this an artist unafraid of vulnerability.

For all the talk of Lu switching up sounds, Blood retains an undeniably gorgeous atmosphere. ‘Due West’ begins with a placid cushion of reservation before giving way to a sudden rush of sound. Lu herself makes you ache with every word. I have no particular connection with California, no cause to romanticize it, but when Lu, seemingly on edge of genuinely imploding in verse, aches out, “Due west, just cruise as far as I can go to / California, California, California,” I never fail to find myself having to stop from tearing up. As the crickets creep in at the song’s end, it’s not hard to imagine oneself embarking upon their own freeing, desperate road trip. A trite device in the wrong hands, perhaps, but Lu handles subtlety as well as grandiose gestures. In her world, even Skrillex (yes, Skrillex) tones it down.

Lu also brings her songwriting as short story ability to new heights, with opener ‘Rebel’ painting a sympathetic, yet wry, portrait of her parents in their youth. “Never really get to walk away, do you? / Who will be the ones to walk away with you?,” Lu asks, and it’s not hard to hear the deadly mixture of sorrow, fear and cold realism in her voice.

Indeed, the world Blood inhabits is intricately complex, drifting between well-earned confidence and unassuaged guilt and dread. It’s by turns soothing and existentially crushing. If Kelsey Lu was truly, as has been often implied, taking on better known R&B stars at their own game, she’s still resulted in something wholly her own, entirely alien from anyone else in her field. Even ‘Poor Fake’, certainly the most chart-ready cut here, with its frenetic disco groove, maintains a confident sense of self. It doesn’t hurt that it’s immediately followed by the oddity that is ‘Too Much’, which sounds something like a mournful Western ballad behind Lu’s impassioned vocals. This is R&B and dense pop bent to its creators will, rather than anything the other way around. This is Beyoncé for a panic attack. This is, only more and more so with time spent in its valleys and peaks, essential listening.