Lost & Found

The Observer - The New Review - - Pop -


In 2016, Wal­sall teenager Jorja Smith emerged with Blue Lights, a Dizzee Ras­cal-sam­pling lul­laby nar­rat­ing black British youth’s fear of the po­lice. This im­pres­sive de­but led to co-signs from Drake, Stor­mzy, and Ken­drick La­mar, not to men­tion the 2018 Brits crit­ics’ choice award. The 20-year-old’s first al­bum finds her stand­ing on her own two feet. A gen­tle record of lithe, ac­com­plished slow jams, it toys with a myr­iad of gen­res: while del­i­cate R&B is the most ob­vi­ous ref­er­ence, there’s a UK dance nod too – not in the lit­eral way of On My Mind, her 2017 garage col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pred­i­tah, but that dis­tinctly pol­ished per­cus­sive sound is ev­i­dent through­out, in the slink­i­ness of Fe­bru­ary 3rd and the hu­mid un­der­cur­rent of The One. The so­cial com­men­tary is lim­ited to Blue Lights and the soft rap of freestyle Lifeboats (“Why do we watch them drown / We’re too self­ish in the lifeboats”), but the al­bum’s ap­peal lies es­pe­cially in Smith’s silken ac­counts of de­spon­dent ro­mances – soar­ing, hope­less bal­lads about ado­les­cent crushes. Ebbing and flow­ing with day­dreams and a glossy but gritty pulse, Lost & Found is qui­etly, con­fi­dently re­mark­able. Tara Joshi voice feather-light.

It’s a wise move for songs well suited to an era of heavy, tell-all mem­oir. Opener Come on Then be­lies its pug­na­cious ti­tle with the rev­e­la­tion that “ev­ery night I’m cry­ing”, while Fam­ily Man, a dra­maladen pi­ano bal­lad, ad­dresses her mar­riage breakup and her guilt at tak­ing time to tour and write, a worry also ad­dressed on Three, writ­ten from the point of view of a con­fused child. The hard­est hit, though, is Ev­ery­thing to Feel Some­thing, self-loathing sub­li­mated into a sweetly ethe­real numb­ness. There are nag­ging hooks among all the airy con­fec­tion and rev­e­la­tions, too, yet the re­lent­less in­ward fo­cus gets ex­haust­ing over 14 tracks that should have prob­a­bly been 11. The closer, Cake, lets a lit­tle light in, urg­ing lis­ten­ers to both have and eat, to grab a bit of “that pa­tri­archy pie”. It’s good to see Allen com­ing back for sec­onds. Emily Mackay

Mourn­ing Song, by con­trast, finds Wise, a clas­si­cally trained singer, griev­ing a re­la­tion­ship, us­ing vo­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion tech­niques to “sound like the de­mon”; imag­ine Per­fume Ge­nius remixed by Arca. After his break­out 2016 EP blis­ters, made with Björk’s col­lab­o­ra­tor the Haxan Cloak, Soil has con­tri­bu­tions from sound-mak­ers as di­verse as Katie Gately, dig­i­tal hip-hop hand Clams Casino, and even Paul Ep­worth (Adele), tak­ing Wise’s vi­sion into glo­ri­ous sonic HD. Kitty Em­pire

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