Someone needs to take genres in new directions, and doing so aggressively may prove to make a much more niche sound. For her most intriguing album to date, Tirzah mixes experimental electronic tones with powerful R&B soul for an album that sounds like few others. Though it may feel like a massive and daunting step now, we’ll likely be looking back to this album as a turning point in the genre later.
Like a jazz standard updated for the electronic age, “Fine Again” plays between its sombre chords and rushes of keyboard attacks. Though it never really moves beyond its downbeat energy, this track sets a nice tone for the rest of the record to come. While it takes a similarly drawn-out and drone-like delivery, “Do You Know” explores Tirzah’s experimental production for a song that eases you into its strange writing. “Gladly” starts to twist sounds you know as its flanger and chorus-heavy sounds show a sense of disintegrating hope that Tirzah drives forward.
As the synth-pop gains a driving beat on “Holding On” we see Tirzah finding her most catchy energy yet, in something with a surprising range of emotion. Though her understated delivery doesn’t exactly help her music stand out, it does hold onto the more pained side of the track. She touches on such a deep vulnerability on “Affection,” with every flickering piano line digging deeper into her fractured psyche. At this point however, it feels like Tirzah can leave the dynamics of her tracks too bare, which leaves much of the song’s heartbreaking stories feeling undersold.
In the demented swing of “Basic Need” she hits powerful pop hooks in her vocals, while each pop of the organs really pull you in. Even as a back and forth of one extended chorus, this track is able to ebb and flow just enough to keep you gripped more than other songs on the record. “Guilty” straddles her sound into the worlds of modern hip hop, with the blown-out guitars to really push things over the top. While Tirzah really stretches the range of her sound on this track, it just feels like the pacing doesn’t quite give listeners enough to feel constantly engaged.
Through the silky vocals of Coby Sey, “Devotion” opens with a strong hook and growing arrangements that give its sparse production a little more intrigue. As slow and off-kilter as ever here, it’s the layering that allows Tirzah to really play around without losing her audience this time around. “Go Now” however taps into a shifting wash of sounds, with harmonies lifting up every chorus with an R&B push. By letting her often searching arrangements gain a little more momentum, she’s able to give listeners a tangible direction in her music.
The sharp vocals in “Say When” have a similar effect, as the discordant piano hooks play along to create this rollicking energy in the music. Tirzah also builds a cold swell underneath the track so that by the time you reach the final notes, there’s a sense of growth in her own feelings as well. “Reach” however will likely feel like one of the more experimental and testing songs of the record, with genres shifting under foot and vocals coming in so scarcely it feels more like a jam at times.
Words by Owen Maxwell