It seems odd to be analysing the qualities of a debut album by an artist who has been making music for so long. Eliza Shaddad released her first EP four years ago and subsequent support slots with artists like Strand of Oaks as well as headline tours of her own introduced us all to her seductive brand of fragile melancholia. The surprise with her first album is how unexpectedly different it is.
The opening track of Future perhaps lessens the jolt of this discordant shift. ‘White Lines’ is a sweeping, luscious lament, retaining the tenderness of her previous EPs but when she sings ‘if I glide away, far from you, can I get free from this’, it turns out to be perhaps prophetic of her stylistic approach on this record. EPs Run and Waters were shimmering affairs, sonically sparse at times, matching the sombre themes which coursed through them and although Eliza’s distinct, jangly guitar motifs are retained on the new record, there is a discernible shift in the scale of her compositions which remains satisfyingly wistful.
‘My Body’ initially retains the mournful nuances of previous releases but it becomes a mountain to be scaled as the Londoner’s usually restrained vocals begin to match the increasing aggression of the rancorous percussion and swirling guitar. ‘Are You There’ shares the previous track’s structure as the tender melancholy gives way to swirling acerbity; Eliza Shaddad’s vocals have more bite in them and the addition of the album’s dramatic synths provide satisfying textures that offer new pleasures on every listen. ‘This is My Cue’ has been described by Shaddad as a song “about freedom and anguish and trying to find the strength of mind to end things,” and once again there is a rewarding narrative structure to the song that establishes a new equilibrium after the track’s whirling volatility. The softer tones of ‘Slow Down’ are therefore welcomed. There’s a mellow 80s timbre to the song but her breathy poeticism still hints at the darkness inherent within the record.
The decade is still lurking in the background of ‘Daydreaming’, perhaps the moment on the record furthest from her EPs. Vocally slick, enhanced by gorgeous harmonies without ever sounding over-produced, the track marks a significant line in the sand for this artist; there is a maturity and a willingness to experiment on display. It’s a shame therefore that ‘Just Goes to Show’ is a tad too generic, just a bit too slick when those references and inspirations begin to impinge on Eliza Shaddad’s own unique voice.
The miscue is a one-off and the remainder of the album retains much of the inventiveness which has defined it so far. There are post-rock flourishes on ‘Your Core’ before the tenderness of closer ‘To Make It Up To You’ reminds us all why we loved Eliza Shaddad in the first place.
Future by Eliza Shaddad is out Friday 26th October via Beatnick Creative. Pre-order here.