There are lots doing this. What’s ‘this’? The Soul and Neo Soul sound, the charts are full of it, often linked with a confessional, cracked vocal and a sparse backing.
I’m pretty bored with it. So many artists take the same road, sound the same, and express the same emotions. I love chart Pop, but I just want someone to buck the trend a little, play with the template, look at the charts, the possibility of fame and fortune on the road well travelled and say ‘no, I’ll just do my own thing’.
Step forward, Yazmin Lacey.
Who Might That Be?
This Nottingham artist has produced 3 EPs in recent times, receiving plaudits, particularly for 2020’s ‘Morning Matters’, which 48 Hills summed up thusly;
‘So here it is. A five-song EP, exercising the virtues of clarity and self-reliance. Showing folks, not only how to move on from the bullshit in their lives, but instilling the gravitas to hand out shovels for fools to pick it up as they go. Learn from this woman…’
But Voice Notes is the debut proper. And it is proper good.
The difference is the small differences she makes. Let me be clear – to my ears, this sounds like a Soul album, I’m jaded I know and apt to jump to musical conclusions, but I know one when I hear it.
It’s the small things that make a big noise.
The Album: Voice Notes is full of Soul
It’s called Voice Notes and it does what Macy Gray used to do and is doing again now; rub you slightly the wrong way so you like it.
The just waking up feel to the woozy, jazz-touched ‘Bad Company’ confounds the expected Soul backing, adding some electric piano to cosset you.
‘Fool’s Gold’ brings an almost Salsa style with a bongo beat, a touch of audacity, whilst the vocal can become almost an incantation.
But if you want to go places, hitch a ride on ‘Match In My Pocket’, because you’ll get to experience a Jazz beat, some narration curling around you and a warm Jazz Funk finish too.
And then ‘Sea Glass’ introduces a harp to a Dinner Jazz feel, I bet that interferes with your use of a soup spoon.
It’s a coaxing, but never pleading, voice, it’s full but never settles into the comfortable conformity of Soul certainty; this voice swaddles but jabs as well – there’s a slightly off-kilter feel to it, the intro to the album, ‘Flylo Tweet’ is an easy narrative, a chat, an easy discourse, but just a little woozy too.
‘Finding beauty in imperfection, Yazmin’s unfiltered approach has seduced tastemakers like Gilles Peterson…’
and it’s this unlikely outcome that beguiles, this album comes to us from Yazmin Lacey, no one else and seemingly with no external music business interests.
That’s unusual, with Dave Okumu’s deep bed comfort production making the edge of sleep feel even more apparent. When the wooziness appears, that’s a shock.
And in a 5-star view, the Guardian encapsulated this album’s appeal so well;
‘Voice Notes is conceptually and musically accomplished, flourishing with inspired narratives and sensuality at every turn..’
Yazmin Lacey has arrived. And they conveyance was all of her own making.