Yael Naim found a great deal of fame when her 2008 track New Soul was used in an Apple ad. The song is a whimsy few minutes of spritely pop music; inoffensive but certainly nothing notably worthy of attention in a musical landscape littered with Eliza Doolittles, Tom Odells and Gabrielle Aplins. Nonetheless with plenty of radio and online attention under her belt and a loyal fanbase, the Israeli-French singer has gone on to release Older, an album that boasts far greater ambition.
With fans including Lianne La Havas and Sam Smith, Naim seems to have acquired a creative confidence that for much of Older allows her to ascend to the level of rhythmically and melodically subversive material we have come to expect from the likes of alternative oddballs such as tUnE-yArDs and Joanna Newsom. Vacillating between a darkly epic sound and the twee melodicism of her earlier work, this latest record from Naim displays a versatility that could have her rise above her peers.
Naim is set to feature on another Apple ad; this time her track Walk Walk from the latter half of the album will be used in their ‘Shot On iPhone’ campaign. One can definitely see why it’s been chosen as it gleefully skips along all three-part harmonies and off-beat claps like a southern American church choir. It’s not quite enough to put a smile on this cynical reviewer’s face, but should serve as an upbeat slice of feel-good pop for most normally functioning human beings.
What undoubtedly spearheads Older is Naim’s extraordinary vocal talent, which sees her implement melodies of varying sizes and styles, lengths and pitches, with enviable ease across a number of tracks. On Make A Child she evokes Kate Bush by speedily climbing octaves as she throws out complex yet undoubtedly catchy hooks above a sunshine-inflected vibe, the perfect remedy to the murkiness of these winter months.
Another powerful vocal performance can be heard on Dream In My Head, a dramatic track of a slower tempo than those that precede it. A cool creeping bass line dances in sync with the drum beat whilst Naim can be heard at her most triumphant, a dropped pin somewhere between Adele and PJ Harvey. The darker aspects of this number are built on in the equally thrilling Coward and Trapped.
One minor criticism to raise is Naim’s tendency to dip into some lazy lyricism. Though her boldly charismatic vocal style covers up some errors, at times it’s too hard not to notice. “Seeing my life in grey / Throw it all away” she sings on one track, using simplistic rhyming couplets to say absolutely nothing. This isn’t true for all of the record however; Take Me Down is a brilliantly defiant song that has her assert that “I’m never gonna worship you” to the subject of some very viscerally personal poetry.
This record is far better than anything recorded by a kooky, piano-plonking singer-songwriter deserves to be. For the most part a fierce and bold LP, it casts aside presumptions to present something really interesting, without compromising on the sense of fun that is fundamental to Yael Naim’s sound. Plainly exceeding expectations, Older is a really great listen.
Yael Naim’s Older was released on 6 November 2015.