Interview: People I Love comes into his own on his latest self-titled release

“'People I Love' is the most true realization of my 'sound'... I might be speaking too soon, but it feels like the first album I’ve made that I won’t regret in any way a couple of years later.”
Picture of Madeleine Aitken
Madeleine Aitken
Madeleine recently graduated from Tufts University with degrees in English and film & media studies and lives in Cambridge, MA. She likes to write features and reviews and is most interested in music and movies. Contact:

With a hyper-specific lo-fi-ish sound reminiscent of Alex G that is at once calming and invigorating, People I Love—the solo project of Brooklyn-based Dan Poppa—emphasizes the charm in subtlety, using spare lyrics to convey big feelings. His 2024 self-titled album is effortlessly soft and lovely, its songs delivering the beauty and heartache of love in equal measure.

Poppa’s songs on People I Love are consistently short, almost all under 3 minutes; the entire 10-song album comes in at only 25 minutes. This works well, because the songs feel like little passing moments, and Poppa’s songs flow nicely into each other, making for a great album listening experience. That brevity also helps Poppa, who has recorded all his albums by himself, on the production end. “My songs are just really short and usually follow a similar structure, so they come together pretty quickly once I have a verse and/or chorus,” Poppa shared when I talked to him over the phone last month. 

The album, released in January, opens with the upbeat “Still Here.” Like most of Poppa’s songs, the lyrics are sparse and to the point. “Know that I’m still here / I know you care / That I’m still here / I know you care,” Poppa sings on a loop for the duration of the almost three-minute song. It’s an apt way to begin his fourth album: he’s still here and will proclaim it, if only in his own quiet way.

Poppa became interested in music back when he was a kid, from bearing witness to the tail end of the music video era of MTV and watching his sister play guitar in a band, which made him want to play too. His inspiration today, he said, comes in pieces from everything he listens to, but especially the music he grew up on: Elliott Smith, Alex G, Sparklehorse, and the like. “The more recent, big inspirations for me, are artists like Melaina Kol, Fish Hunt, Brittle Brian, Kitchen, and Teethe,” Poppa said. “There are many more on that list, but those always immediately come to mind. Recently I’ve been really into the latest Greg Mendez album. I really relate to his songwriting style and have a lot of appreciation for his voice and lyrics.”

People I Love definitely has some of the stripped-down sonics of Greg Mendez; lyrically, the albums share a similar gentleness. In general, Poppa’s album is thoughtfully introspective. The plucky “Miracle” has a plodding melody that matches its lyrical intensity: “It was so severe / The moment you just appeared / Hit me like a brick / Love became a fix.” Layering lyrics like these over bareboned melodies works beautifully on People I Love. “Dream,” the easy standout of the album for the catchiness of its swirling synth, is nothing short of poetic and romantic, honest and raw. The sound can only be described as a kind of dreamscape, as Poppa sings, “When I go far away I always / dream of you.”

When Poppa records, he begins with acoustic guitar and “adds stuff until it feels damaging to the atmosphere of the song.” Establishing song atmospheres is something Poppa has mastered throughout his music career: each one feels like a little world. Some are sad and quiet, some are joyful and upbeat. Sometimes the worlds of each song feel disparate; other times, they are intentionally connected. “The songs “Ant,” “Riddle,” and “Throne” [from People I Love] all sort of go together, to me, and sort of set the tone of the album,” Poppa continues, “they’re all in the same tuning and I wrote them all in a row within the span of a couple of days.”

That tone is one of easy listening; this is music perfect for swaying, for long strolls, and for rainy days. Looking back, he said, he considers the period in which he wrote those songs to be the beginning of making this album, though he didn’t realize it until later. Poppa doesn’t have a specific songwriting process or method for recording. “I just try to make songs when it feels necessary and when it feels like I have a clear moment to express myself lyrically and instrumentally,” he said.

Despite this humility, he’s a pretty prolific songwriter. Before releasing People I Love in January 2024, he wrote and produced three other albums—The Sounds of People in 2019, Lucky Magic in 2020, and Bee Mountain in 202—plus two EPs: Xo Ghost in 2022 and Fish People in 2023. Over the course of his five-year career, he’s honed his style to create a sound that is uniquely, and recognizably, his own: dreamy intros, heavy strumming, and a delicate singing voice. “I think, mainly, my singing voice has changed a lot. It was much deeper and more hoarse-sounding on the earlier recordings. Over time, I’ve learned how to sing softer, and with more intent,” Poppa said.

It’s true that on his earlier albums, especially his first, The Sounds of People, his voice is much clearer and louder. It cuts through whatever else is going on sonically, whereas, on People I Love, his voice no longer feels like the main character. He self-titled his most recent album because he said it feels like “the most true realization of [his] ‘sound.’” He later shares, “I might be speaking too soon, but it feels like the first album I’ve made that I won’t regret in any way a couple of years later.”

None of his albums seem worthy of regret—they’re each solid in their own way—but Poppa has indeed seemed to come into his own on People I Love. The Sounds of People is pretty evidently a first album, on Lucky Magic, he seems to get more comfortable, and Bee Mountain is probably the most sonically interesting of the four, but People I Love feels like an achievement of the sound Poppa has been trying to cultivate: sharp yet simple lyrics delivered quietly, almost confessionally, over guitar riffs and experimental instrumentals.

Read More