Album Review: Shura – Nothing’s Real

By on Wednesday, 27th July 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Shura Nothing's Real album coverWe here at There Goes The Fear have been long awaiting the release of English singer/songwriter Shura’s debut album. If you don’t believe me, you can check out our editor Mary’s previous thoughts on earlier unveiled tracks ‘White Light’ and ‘The Space Tapes’. ‘Nothing’s Real’ was released earlier this month on Polydor Records. Without a doubt, it goes above and beyond any expectations we had of the album since our first taste of Shura back in June 2015.

Placed in an equally effective order, these are 13 incredibly well crafted songs, each of which gather many influences from the ‘80s synthpop era and shed a new light on it by combining the sound with a hint of post-Noughties European house music. The LP keeps the listener in a constant state of ecstacy, no matter the setting. Songs such as ‘Touch’, ‘Kidz ‘n’ Stuff’ and ‘2Shy’ reveal the romantic side to the album. With lyrics about lust, longing after the one you want, and the promises made between couples, these tracks could be envisioned at an ‘80s slow dance prom. ‘What Happened to Us’, ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ and ‘Make It Up’, on the other hand, could be used to soundtrack a feel good indie teen summer party movie. Either way, ‘Nothing’s Real’ is sure to provide the listener with the dying need to dance in any setting.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gtREooYQ9w[/youtube]

The album opens with a short intro track simply titled ‘(i)’, lasting only 1 minute and 30 seconds long. The minimalistic nature of ambient pads and the soothing sound of vinyl hiss transports us into dreamlike state in. In a way, it’s as if Shura anticipated the impact her album would have and wanted her listener to feel as comfortable as possible before transporting us back to the 1980s seen through the eyes of a New Wave, indie hipster of 2016.

Next on the track listing, the title track of the album bursts through the introductory soothing feeling set in place by ‘(i)’ with a sound totally reminiscent of late ‘80s Madonna, but with the production approach of European DJs like Todd Terje (‘Inspector Norse’) and Tensnake. All melodic elements, from the Motown-inspired bass line to the string embellishments in the chorus, even down to the tone of Shura’s voice and phrasing of the vocal melody, point towards Madonna’s ‘True Blue’ and ‘Like a Prayer’ albums. The sounds used in producing these elements, however, are extremely modern. The bass is rounder with more grit, making it sound overall more full, the guitars are sharper, and the lead synths act as sound effects more so than a melodic element. The only thing, if anything Shura lacks in her songs is the use of head-filling hooks. However, this is not to say she doesn’t make up for it in harmony and chord voicings, which themselves act as hooks.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpZCRfrVI48[/youtube]

The same electronic influences in ‘Nothing’s Real’ crop up throughout the album, particularly in tracks such as the previously unveiled ‘Indecision’ and single ‘White Light’. Although they appear 6th and 12th on the album, they both stick closely to the fundamental sound presented in the title track. The main difference between these and ‘Nothing’s Real’ is that they provide a moodier, emotional sense of harmony and melody. ‘Tongue Tied’ also veers slightly from the pre-established EDM vibe, into a more chilled out down tempo performance, mainly by featuring normal pop instruments like guitars to introduce the groove and melody, rather than relying on processed synth sounds to fill out the song. That’s not to say the track stands any weaker than the others. It merely means the unaffected sound gives way for Shura to showcase her keen ear for melody and rhythm in her vocal parts, and her microscopic attention to detail is showcased too by working them perfectly around the surrounding music.

Romantic, fun and thought-provoking, ‘Nothing’s Real’ is many things, but above all it is virtually flawless. It acknowledges the hype of post-Noughties pop music, which seems to be a throw back to the ‘80s, best exemplified by The 1975. But instead of following it, it’s as if Shura almost has been studying the trend from a distance, then picked out the weak points to discard them, whilst easily making the strong points stronger. Be sure to pick up a copy, as this album is definitely not to be missed as a great soundtrack to the summer.

9/10

‘Nothing’s Real’, the debut album from Shura, is now available from Polydor Records. For more on Shura on TGTF, including our coverage of her performance at the Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales night at SXSW 2015, go here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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