music reviews

Shura — “Nothing’s Real”

A dreamy, hazy intro is the first thing you get from our newest pop princess Shura’s debut album. Scraps of dialogue from Shura’s father and what sounds like a rocket blasting off in the distance tune in and out like a fuzzy radio. As “(i)” fades, it’s replaced by the album’s title track. Nothing’s Real shifts from ’80s homage in songs like “What’s It Gonna Be” to near imitation in “Nothing’s Real”. Shura uses this album to take on a presence like those of the early ’80s queens, each track presenting a girlish, almost naively feminine voice.

The defining measure of the album is Shura’s introversion. In songs like “2Shy”, Shura channels the spirit of Molly Ringwald in 16 Candles, right before Michael Schoeffling is about to kiss her over the cake. Shura is hesitant, whispering over a powdery synthetic build about her desire — maybe? — for a sort of relationship with this person she might just like.

Despite this uncertainty, Shura doesn’t stray from being articulate in “2Shy”. Each note is perfectly in place, never straying from the heartbeat of the song. She might be murmuring, caressing the lyrics, but the phrasing is too deliberate to ignore: Headphones on, got a cigarette rolled, I know / I shouldn’t light it ‘cause I haven’t had one for weeks.

Shura’s shy and sweet, but she’s also deliberate and aware of everything happening around her. It’s this deliberation that drives her individuality and really matches her to the early ’80s greats. “Nothing’s Real” shows off her power more so than any other track off the album. Instead of the soft thrum of a heartbeat, the album’s title track epitomizes the throb of restlessness, ticking through the dragging hours of dissociation and panic. There’s nothing soft or playful about “Nothing’s Real,” though the hesitation and uncertainty remains

Other songs are harder to categorize. “What’s It Gonna Be”, a track with a video you should have already fallen in love with, balances indecision (incidentally, the name of another song off the album) with a defined, upbeat assuredness. Nothing’s Real is all about going boldly forward into the unknown, and suddenly the sounds of the rocket in “(i)” make a lot more sense.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the final two tracks off Nothing Is Real. Each over nine minutes long, “White Light” and “The Space Tapes” feel unfinished and uncensored. “The Space Tapes” relies on instrumentation and has the vibe of an R&B song, so much so as to be tonally distinct from the rest of the album. Both pieces include slow fades to silence, only to pick back up again with an entirely new theme. It’s almost as if Shura were piecing together a few incomplete bits of her brain, unsure what to do with them — so she just stuck them to the end of the album. “White Light” and “The Space Tapes” share a refreshing distinction from the power and precision of the rest of the album, and they add yet another layer of humanity to Nothing’s Real.

Shura’s debut album didn’t strike a chord with me because her music sounds exactly like the theme to a John Hughes movie. It didn’t strike a chord because she’s a British pop princess, or because she made a cute LGBT music video (although that certainly didn’t hurt). It resonated with me because Shura leans heavily into teasing out different aspects of what we, the audience, are led to believe make her a person with doubts and fears. Making music in itself is a scary thing, but deliberately making your art reflect a deep, true part of yourself is even scarier. So here Shura goes, boldly forward into the unknown.

Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

New Music Friday: FOXTROTT

I knew FOXTROTT (the moniker for Canadian musician Marie-Helene Delorme) wasn’t necessarily very well known, but the extent of her obscurity was a shock to me. I googled “Untake Me” to see what the lyrics were, and the first few results were for the Maroon Five song, “Unkiss Me”. (Just what I needed. More Adam Levine.) This is simultaneously surprising and unsurprising — FOXTROTT’s A Taller Us is a debut album and she’s not exactly a superstar — but on the other hand, it’s full of really interesting songs that deserve recognition. It’s a shame she’s so little known.

The instrumentation on this album is so eerie and weird! The electronic beats in the background are dark and heavy, and the simple melody they provide give a solid, strange base to the extra things building up around them. They’re really excellent, too — no surprise, seeing as Delorme used to make beats for other artists. The vocals are great, too; she has a very clear voice with a fantastic range, which adds to the strange power of the music.

And the music is powerful, make no mistake. There is a deep and punchy backbone to each song, so although each one is independent of each other, they all have a similar weight. One song in particular, “Untake Me”, is full of anger and sarcasm. I dare you / Why can’t you just let it pour, let it pour. She sings, but she could be spitting.

The style of the album is eclectic, unique, but it draws from similarly-minded artists. I’m hearing FKA twigs influences, certainly, especially in the beats and the colours created by the sound. Björk gets a nod too.

I’ve been listening to this album on my way into school on the bus, and it’s the perfect soundtrack to the winter field we drive through last. It’s a bit bleak – certainly not very bright or poppy, but it’s beautiful. It is hopeful, and I know I, for one, am very excited to see what’s coming next from FOXTROTT.

Claire Cullen is an 18-year-old who lives in Ireland. Recently she has been dealing with Hamilton-related problems, and it’s probably best not to get her started on why. Dedicated to furthering the Liberal Agenda. You can find her on Twitter.