Albums of 2016 - Shura - Nothing's Real

Albums of 2016 - Shura - Nothing's Real

One of my two favourite pop records of 2016, Shura's debut full length Nothing's Real may have been a long time coming for those of us with her from the outset but it rewards the listening fully and offers a perfect addition to 80's indebted pop with a modern twist that's finding an increasingly prominent place in my record collection.

The entire record is direct and emotional from start to finish, filled with a broken-hearted mood amongst smooth, shimmering textures, take the wonderful trio of tracks that predated the album "Touch", "Just Once" and "Indecision" as perfect example and the brilliant "Indecision", a more 80's indebted, school dance-floor jam with sparkling synths and woozy guitars that is both restrained and luxurious as an example of the more upbeat moments seen best on the bedazzling "White Light".

The softly spoken vulnerability reaches its peak on my favourite two new tracks ("Touch" will always be the Shura song for me) "What’s It Gonna Be?” and "What Happened To Us", both see Shura challenging her lover with forthright questions about the potential end of relationship and hit hard with the tangled web that is human emotion. Despite its often brittle subject matter, Nothing's Real comes across as sexy and poppy and I love it. 

Shura #6 - White Light / Three Years

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A couple of weeks ago Shura returned with her biggest track yet "White Light" but I've been so busy I'm only just finding it (please direct any complaints to the makers of Witcher 3 and my bosses at work).

The track was the triumphant final song when I caught her in Brighton a couple of weeks back, a progressive 'club banger' made for its position as closing track. The sort of song that will in time see euphoric crowd reactions and dazzling neon lights, yet, my debut to the track was slightly more low-key, the lighting crew in Brighton had clearly gone home early and instead the room was bathed in a constant purple light. It mattered little in the grand scheme of things but something as soaring and inspired as "White Light" deserved better.

Adding a retro-club groove to her sound seems a natural move for Shura after a series of impeccable, 80's inspired pop/R&B classics and the track ticks every box you may have; funky guitars, glistening soundscapes and infectious choruses are all here in their number. Colour me smitten.

If you still want more, you are in luck. Last week Shura released a live performance film which brings together three tracks into one breathtaking video that runs at eleven minutes in length, "2 Shy" merging into "Touch" (still yet to be officially released, imagine how much her stock will raise then) and "Indecision". Move over Michael Jackson.

Shura #5 - 2Shy

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Shura's first track of 2015 "2Shy" is everything you'll want it to be, a continuation in theme and mood of last years wonderful trio of tracks "Touch", "Just Once" and "Indecision",  it sees midnight synths slow-burn amongst Shu's moreish vocal and direct, broken hearted lyrics. Super chills are sure to follow.

Shura's second sold-out London show in a row happens in a couple of weeks at Village Underground, the next, at the rather massive Brixton Electric happens in September - further details. America - you can catch her at SXSW (if you are going of course).

"2Shy" is available on iTunes, expect more soon.

Fifteen For 2015 #6 - Shura

Shura, one of the more obvious of my picks (on my only shared inclusion from the BBC sound of 2015 list) deserves all her recent plaudits for releasing three of 2014's finest pop moments. The acceleration from 2011's night folk EP to 2014's bedroom pop came just before Valentine's Day with the release of "Touch" (a track I've already named as my of the first half of 2014 and I'm not changing its position at the end of the year either). It's since received an obscene number of plays all over the Internet (5 million on youtube and soundcloud alone) and on my no doubt hundredth odd listen it's still obvious why, a luxurious, sultry beauty that swoons amongst soft-glittering electronics and tells tales of intimate frustration and heartache that connect with all.

That wasn't enough, "Just Once" followed with equally smooth, shimmering textures guiding Shura's softly spoken vulnerability to perfection and news of a Polydor signing was coupled by the brilliant "Indecision", a more 80's indebted, school dance-floor jam with sparkling synths and woozy guitars. A trio of absolute stunners later and Shura is a name on everyone's lips.  

I was gutted I couldn't make her debut London show and will hope to set that right next year, I'm sure I'll get plenty of chances. Let's hope she can tear herself away from Telltale Games adventures and record an album in 2015. I think there's quite a few people waiting to hear it.

Shura #3 - Just Once

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When you've set the bar as high as Shura did with "Touch" you have a lot to live up to, it's fair enough to say that my single of the year so far has created quite an impact, amassing over 600k's worth of plays on soundcloud alone, that's as a self-released track. The London based artist returns with her second track "Just Once", a track which happily lives up to all you could have hoped for.

"Just Once" could be an early sister of "Touch", based years before at the point of a relationship breakdown and sees Shura contemplating a one-night stand where names and identify blur amongst the desire to, as repeated throughout the song, "get lost". Musically the track is similarly restrained and luxurious with smooth, shimmering textures guiding Shura's softly spoken heartache. Another stunner then.

The Best Songs of 2014 So Far (Part Two)

10. Lazy Day - With My Mind

"With My Mind" is most fully realised track that Tilly has released thus far under her Lazy Day pseudonym. Earlier tracks shared on her Soundcloud suited the band name (currently just Tilly, with hopefully a live band and dates to follow) perfectly, full of plaintive daydreams and spacious, echoed vocals. "With My Mind" takes that further with a brooding intensity and a hypnotic guitar riff that will embed itself in your brain, couple it with Tilly's magnetic voice, her sumptuous, soothing tones wrap around you and soon you're lost deep within.



9. Rae Morris - Skin

Rae returns to make 2014 her own with a new track "Skin", easily her finest to date and as devastating a moment as the year has offered us to date. "Skin", and please excuse the pun, gets under exactly that as metronomic piano chords chime with elegant simplicity amongst delicate vocals and luscious string instrumentation. It's all beautifully timed and Rae's lyrics possess a dark, haunting edge, the result is sure to bring goose-bumps to listeners all over.



8.Sea Change - Bridges

Sea Change (aka Ellen Sundes) was one of my revelations at The Great Escape (and judging by the reviews I've read, many others too). Even as an act I'd blogged about before the festival I was taken aback by her live show, performing as a trio in a pitch black (and tiny) basement I saw as intense and chilly a set I've ever, extraordinarily dark, her (surprisingly) epic electronic soundscapes and bass guitar rhythms combined perfectly around her undeniably sweet, ethereal vocal. It was simply stunning. The studio version of "Bridges" was released a couple of days before I departed for Brighton and with some distance from that performance the track still mesmerises, it starts relatively calm with ambient glitches, effects and spectral vocals immersing you within its hypnotic, dream-like state before spiraling to a searing finale of electronic noise, guitar and emotion.



7. The Night VI - Sienna

"Sienna" is simply magnificent, built around the crystal clear voice of Sophie-Rose, here filled with more heartache and emotion that you could bottle, the track will connect with anyone whose ever let someone they love slip through their fingers (pretty sure that's most of us) and supported by spacious, blissed-out instrumentation it provides an irresistible listen from its first to last moment.



6. Lykke Li - Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone

...sparse and confessional with languid, haunting acoustic echoes the sole accompaniment for Lykke's devastating delivery, you can tangibly feel her emotion throughout - what a beauty.



5. Sophie Jamieson - Stain / Other

"Stain" leaves exactly that on you, combining Sophie's delectable vocals, heart shattering lyrics and restrained instrumentation, the perfect marriage of space and structure to get under your skin with spine-tingling effect. The track comes backed with "Other", a fully realised beauty which highlights her bands influence more than ever. A stark, haunting drip feed of emotion.



4. Eliza Shaddad - You For Me

Labelled as a radio edit and yet six minutes in length (that's the same length as Bohemian Rhapsody, a story I'm sure we've all heard) the track epitomises the soft and graceful style of Eliza's music. "You For Me" really is as pretty a moment as I've heard all year, a genuine love song with ringing guitar patterns and a delicate, haunting backdrop which slowly introduces Eliza's stunning vocals, gorgeous and defiant, here coupled with lyrics as optimistic and heartfelt as you're ever likely to hear. "You For Me" is the sort of track that will bring you to a stand still whatever you are doing - simply magical.



3. Lisa Alma - Bittersweet

"Bittersweet", comes backed with a beautiful, pure black and white video, the imagery the perfect compliment to the track which leaves you longing, desperate for more. Backed by little more than subtle drum pad beats and minimal, spacious synths it's Lisa's vocal that steals the show and has me hooked. It immediately makes me think of Prince's falsetto, not just any old Prince either, the Purple One at his 80's best, seducing with every note, whispered, extended words that make you fall hopelessly under their spell. I love the extended outro too, with a smouldering guitar that captures the feeling of the track, just bloody gorgeous.



2. Broken Twin - In Dreams

A true highlight of an extraordinay album, as intimate and arresting an experience as music can offer



1. Shura - Touch

effortlessly sexy / cool melody that swoons amongst soft-glittering electronics and Shura's luxurious vocal, its simple and refined and despite its lyrics of "I wanna touch you but it's too late, I wanna touch you but there's history..." is straight-up baby-making music.



Hands down track of the year so far. Go and give it your love. 550k+ plays, Wow!!

Shura #2 - Touch

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I've been looking forward to hearing new material from Shura for a while now, it's crazy to think it was way back in 2011 that I first came across her 'night-folk' tracks produced with Hiatus. Both "River" and "Fortune's Fool" introduced a beautiful, soothing voice capable of healing broken hearts. Since there's been the odd further collaboration along the way but it wasn't until yesterday that Shura returned to my headphones with a track that wasn't at all what I was expected but had me hooked almost straight away...

"Touch" removes all of those earlier singer-songwriter trademarks and inside replaces them with a mid 90's R&B slow-jam. Here there's this effortlessly sexy / cool melody that swoons amongst soft-glittering electronics and Shura's luxurious vocal, its simple and refined and despite its lyrics of "I wanna touch you but it's too late, I wanna touch you but there's history..."  is straight-up baby-making music.

Cor.