It’s not often you come across a true original, but Eliza Shaddad is that sort of artist. Her music merges a whole library of styles into something fresh and mysterious. She sounds more mature and practiced on this, her debut album, than she has any right to do, and pulls a string of gorgeous rabbits out of her creative hat. There’s no filler here.
The consistent quality on show is owed to a long gestation period. Shaddad has come to this point via a degree in jazz, several big-name collaborations (Clean Bandit, for one) and a slow-burn, EP-based solo career. Like so many of her contemporaries on the modern indie scene, she’s taken her time and honed her craft. If Future is anything to go by, there’s a lot to be said for the gradual approach.
Grungey, esoteric indie/folk is the order of the day for most of the album. Openers ‘White Lines’ and ‘My Body’ sound like a darker, more brooding Gabrielle Aplin or Amy MacDonald, with the shadow of Eddie Vedder looming in the background. The songs are built on guitar riffs, growing from quiet introspection into swirling psychedelic waves. It’s music to have a sad walk to; music to get caught in the rain to; music to shout at the moon to.
Her voice is beautiful. Rich and tender, full of feeling but blessed with technical depth, it guides us through the album’s sonic changes without a stutter. Now portentous, now gentle and sweet, it’s a powerful scene-setter and mood-maker. Shaddad’s well-crafted songs are elevated by her voice. The best artists bring an indefinable personality to their music, infusing their recordings with their selves, making music in their own image. That’s partly why it’s so hard to put a label on this music – it’s beholden to its creator, not a particular tribal genre.
Standout moments: check out the drums on the coda of ‘Are You There’, taking centre stage and providing as much emotion as a lead guitar. Dig the sunshine shimmer and shoutalong chorus of ‘Daydreaming’, proving that introverts like to smile too. Feel the road unfurl beneath your feet to the scrolling riff of ‘Just Goes To Show’. Groove to the Pink Floyd ride and solo on ‘The Conclusion’. Enjoy the variety.
Future is worth listening to. I mean, really listening, while sitting down and without a screen in front of you. Or take a cue from its creator and find a deserted airfield to roam whilst absorbing its dark vibes.
Music like this is an achievement and a gift; an interface between one human and others. Make the most of it.