Tirzah made it on the London scene in 2014 and 2015 with her EPs of techno-influenced R&B, featuring her soulful homegrown voice, repeating edgy and challenging-to-the-world-of-pop-music phrases, like “No romance.” Her music has always been a bit minimalist in its approach, but her debut album, Devotions, which she worked on with friend and producer Mica Levi, who has been nominated for an Oscar for his movie soundtrack for the biopic “Jackie,” stripped her music even further back, emphasizing Tirzah’s voice over beats and keyboard riffs.
With her latest album, Colourgrade, she strips it even further back, so that it feels like it’s a collections of demos before filling out the album with full instrumentation. It is a super intimate album, that seems to tempt the listening audience to demand more of a front than Tirzah is willing to put on. Perhaps a clue comes in the title, “Colourgrade,” something that diamonds go through to determine their value. The more colorless the diamond the more valuable and the more that we cover over our true selves (our “true colors”), put on make up and sport the latest styles, it seems, the more the world is willing to accept or praise us.
Tirzah, who took her own measured time writing this album, became a mother in the time between albums, twice. This gives tracks like “Beating,” particular emotion. Despite the simple instrumentation, it’s super moving when she sings, “You got me / I got you / We made life / It’s beating.” It sounds almost exactly like something a musician would record for their lover on a voicemail, after a particularly hard week, to remind each other just how lucky they really are. It’s Tirzah, without her make up on, as we tend to be with our lovers.
The album is in a way “anti-pop,” with an emphasis, instead of on hooks and beats, on honest sentiments and raw self-expression. Her voice is the central part and people who have been following her for the last ten or so years, will thrill, I think, in hearing a new set of melodies, and the unassuming and heartfelt expressions that she makes. Like Lorde, who reinvented herself this summer, without worry of how it would land, but being true to her own muses, her own growth process, Tirzah has put together an album that seems completely unconcerned with the critics.
“Send me / Sun at dawn / Gonna let it heal some more / Let me heal and now I’m sure.” “Now ordinary to me / still going on and on and on and on.” This album is a love letter to all those artists in their bedrooms who are pouring their hearts onto the page, no matter how good it sounds. It’s hard to tell how this would translate to the live stage, as raw intimacy can be something people shy away from, without some sort of mind-blowing machination. But Tirzah doesn’t seem worried about that. “It’s how I came to / with the colour so true.”
This album would not be for everyone and I find it harder to lose myself in then her former more well-produced stuff. As an album of songs its lack in production is glaring. As a diary of emotions and as what might be a kick back to pop music’s shiny facade, I’m impressed with Tirzah’s confidence/vulnerability. Perhaps, as good art is wont to do, this is one of those albums that help you find yourself, instead of escaping from reality.
Order Colourgrade by Tirzah HERE