Run is available at:
March 18th, 2016
Make It Go Away– 9.6
Run; Make It Go Away
All songs written by Eliza Shaddad
Recorded at Deep Litter Studios, Devon
Engineered by Andrew Bond
Produced by Chris Bond
Mixed by Catherine Marks
Mastered by John Davis
THIS will be my last review this week to feature an…
artist from London. It has been an interesting and diverse last few day: I have witnessed some tremendous music and moments. From terrific girl bands (IV Rox) and great solo acts (Mi’das): I am back with an artist I have reviewed in the past. Before I come to my featured artists; I wanted to look into female artists emerging in addition to artists who redefine what music should be about. There is still a worrying trend of female solo artists not showing necessary originality, power and distinction. Too many upcoming acts are looking at love from the wrong perspective: Heartbroken and (almost) beginning for another chance. Among these misty-eyed songs of sorrow; it is hard to connect with the listener. When I was assessing Laish- the moniker of London songwriter, Daniel Green- I was amazed by the chirpiness of his music. The current single, Learning to Love the Bomb, is a song that makes you sing along and smile. In terms of our modern artists- both female and male- there is that tendency to be quite dour and depressive. Female solo acts are among my favourite musicians: I can detect something special happening right now. One of the drawbacks- that is holding back change and instant dominance- is that reliance on woe-is-me music. It is all very well-being sensitive and open- many people respond to that- but it can be a bit predictable and annoying. The artists who are willing to show some defiance and grit are always going to fare better and last longer. Eliza Shaddad has been around for a little while now and becomes more assured and amazing by the release. Being familiar with her previous body of work- I reviewed her last E.P., Waters– and was genuinely stunned. Rarely has a musician amazed me so much. What I dug about the E.P. was that mix of masculinity and femininity. This has been touched upon by other reviewers- when assessing Run– but Shaddad has a mix of vulnerability and defiance; the strength-against-the-odds with that necessary tenderness. Her voice is a distinctive one that has soulfulness and a gorgeous smokiness. Among the sea of female songwriters- many of whom are still determined to be as fragile and broken as they can- you get something different with Shaddad. Sure, there are songs about letting go and revealing pain (every songwriter will write songs about this). Shaddad is defiant and mature in spite of heartbreak and obstacles.
Whereas many contemporaries would cry their heart out: There is no such weariness and depressiveness among our heroine’s music. Waters was an E.P. that introduced Shaddad to the world with a huge impression. That four-track release (June 2014) showed an intelligent songwriter able to elicit huge emotional responses from her music. The compositions (were) deep, layered and atmospheric. Haunting passages fused with unexpected time signatures: The entire effect left one breathless and hugely impressed. If anything, her current offering builds upon that and goes even further. Run has picked up some effusive reviews- plenty keen to lend their praise into the mix- and it is clear the heroine is not done yet. She will grow stronger and more ambitious as the months go by. Picking up new followers and support: There are towns and ears that are desperate to hear Shaddad up-close and personal. Presenting atmospheric drum beats- layers and layers- and gripping harmonies: Everything Shaddad touches is given a unique flair and huge amount of emotion. It is hard to really define Eliza Shaddad’s music- I shall try my best, soon- but that is a very good thing. A lot of today’s mainstream artist are too simplistic, defined and base. Shaddad- like her finest contemporaries- digs deep and brings the listener into her soul. Not just relying on that voice: You get dynamic compositions and lyrics that mix the personal with universal. I am confident Run’s release will see hundreds of new fans embrace Shaddad’s wonderful, evocative music. Her social media support is firm right now: It is only likely to grow more impressive over the coming weeks. I will be keeping my eyes on Facebook to see when she is touring. I can imagine her music is entrancing and unforgettable in the live arena. I encounter so few solo artists who I (honestly) believe will go the distance and remain years from now. Shaddad has a defined and particular sound; it is not one that will ever grow wearisome and staid. She has a pen and voice nimble enough to eek nuance and fascination. Run is a different beast to Waters: Both E.P.s has an inimitable style but the themes/issues covered are distinct. Shaddad has been through the wars but is not letting things drag her down. Defiant and strong against the tide: You can hear that confidence and strength in every song. It is the leap of confidence- that has been gained between E.P.s- that amazes me. Maybe it is the touring and performances that have solidified her core. Perhaps life’s circumstances- finding new love or recognising her own strengths- has compelled this evolution. What impresses me about Shaddad- among many other things- is how authoritative and intuitive Shaddad is. She has a small team behind her- handling promotions and the day-to-day- but our heroine has professionalism about her. Every E.P. she produces is tight and focused- typically, four songs that never outstay their welcome. She keeps in touch with her fans and understands the importance of social media. Above all, you get that immense charm and smile coming through- an infectious artist who is happy doing what she does; someone deeply in love with music and its possibilities. With so many musicians giving up- feeling the financial squeeze or running out of ideas- you have to tip your hat to an artist who is only just starting to hit her stride. I am not sure whether another E.P. is mooted for this year- maybe she will be planning something in 2017- but we are likely to hear a lot more from Shaddad.
Run follows on from Waters and shows differences and similarities. Like Waters; Run is a lean, four-track E.P. whose tracks are concise and do not overrun. A lot of artists put out E.P.s that has too many tracks- desperate to do as much they can- but Shaddad keeps things focused and controlled. Waters dealt with a lot of love issues: Brave in the face of break-up and how heartache affects the soul. They are sides that are explored across Run. Shaddad has progressed and matured since her last E.P. – new experiences have unfurled and new romances encountered- but the confidence levels are at their very peak. Run is the work of a woman wholly confident in her skin and assured throughout (the E.P.). Maybe touring and new recording has led to this development- becoming more passionate and assured- but you can hear it across the four tracks. The biggest comparison- between the two E.P.s- is the quality and musical depth. Waters was a stunning E.P. that packed emotive compositions around soothing, direct vocals. It is business as usual now: If anything; the compositions and vocals are even-more electric, stunning and engaging. New listeners will find plenty of nuances, quality and stand-out moments: Existing fans will be pleased to see there is no radical tonal shift; the maturity and new insights will excite them.
Wars is the opening track (of Run) and is an appropriate title. With our heroine following “fizzy hands” and words; you are treated to an oblique- and very curious- opening sentiment. The song’s subject is standing before her in a familiar position- maybe disapproving or in judgement- as things are heated and strained. The song’s opening arpeggio- a confessional guitar bounce that builds atmosphere and dark clouds- leads to some intense vocals. Shaddad is in reflective mode: Picking over the pieces of a blow-up, it seems. Trying to escape- and fade from the “morning faze”- you start to wonder what the lyrics pertain to. Initial opinions have my mind levelled towards relationship conflict and personal set-to. Maybe there is something more insular- assessing the self and conflicts within- but it is impossible to see beyond love’s battles and scars. Shaddad is one of the most inventive lyricists in modern music. Most artists keep their language too simple and straight-forward: Maybe the average listener wants something easy-to-understand that doesn’t tax the imagination. Our heroine has no such concerns: She wants the listener to think and use their brains; she will not compromise her talents for the sake of disposability and dumbing-down. The chorus comes into view- the vocal is still tender and haunted; the guitar still driving and persistent- where Shaddad poses questions. Who wins these words that are unfolding? What are (you) fighting for? The oblique nature of the lyrics means every listener might take their mind in a different direction. Given the state of the modern world- the terrorist attacks and daily bloodshed- you could ascribe a political arc to the words. I am guessing it was not Shaddad’s intention- I feel the song is much more personal/not political- but that is the beauty of things. You can interpret Wars in various different ways. Just as the chorus elapses- and we await a second verse- the percussion steps in and provides a necessary kick and spark. The composition accelerates and the entire mood becomes more tempestuous, uncertain and drunken. Although our heroine keeps her voice statuesque, dominating and determined- making sure her words are heard and direct- the composition gives her a little confidence kick. When the beat kicks and pervades: Shaddad seems more motivated, energised and up-for-it. Lines like “I feel it down in every sound” and “You ruin everything still” has that mystique at its heart: Just what is being said here? I am still looking towards love and having Cupid’s arrow shoved through the ventricles. Wars is a song that seems personal to everyone who listens to it. Like a horoscope- the Forer effect means every daily astrological interpretation could be about anyone; in other words, it’s all bullshit- Wars is equally relevant to every person- with a lot more meaning, direction and science. Shaddad is a lyricist who can expertly reveal her soul without coming across too vulnerable and emotional. The lyrics are intelligent and cryptic: She never reveals her hand and uncovers too much of the truth. By the time the second chorus comes around; our heroine is at her peak, vocally. She is entranced by the song and gives the track a buoyant and restless persistence. Oddly, Wars has a groove and dance to it that will get your feet moving. Although the Byzantine lyrics spike the brain: The composition certainly speaks to the body in a very primal sense. When the percussion slams and rolls- Shaddad’s smoky and alluring voice subsides slightly- and the electronics build and fizz; you get impressions of Radiohead and Wild Beasts. Radiohead comes to mind especially- their Kid A and Amnesiac work- and their experimental beast. Perhaps it is not a band Shaddad had in mind, but it is hard to ignore (Radiohead’s influence). “And I can’t feel you for the blood” is one of the most harrowing and unforgettable lines across the entire E.P. You instantly imagine something disturbing and cold: The war is at an end and the victim is fading fast. Whether singletons looking for love or lovers moored by unavoidable rifts: All of us go through battles that can claim the heart. I get the distinct impression (listening to the song) Shaddad has had her fill of arguments and violent nights- the type that leaves you restless and unable to sleep. Maybe I am short of the mark with regards my interpretation: Like all the best songs; the true nature is sacred to the author. By the closing notes- and with the brain packed with conflicting images- you are left to catch your breath.
Many reviewers have shared opinions and words (with regards Shaddad’s latest E.P.). Whereas early work was filled with innocence, hope and affection- a young woman wanting to be loved and discover the mysteries of love- Run is the second half of the concept. I reviewed Big Deal yesterday- the London band’s third album is out soon- who explained their three albums are one long concept. Their debut looked at break-ups and making sense of things; the second was more positive and embracing; their third looks at heartache again and facing obstacles dead-eyed. Shaddad has been in love as a young woman and comes out the other side a brave and changed soul: She has had her heart broken and is not letting (the man/sweetheart) forget the impression he has made. Whereas Wars had elements of My Brightest Diamond and St. Vincent- the composition of the former; the vocal beauty of the latter- Run is a different prospect. Keeping song titles short and sweet- making them memorable and to-the-point- you can already guess the song’s direction. The E.P.’s title cut acts like Scene II: The opener saw the heroine caught in the storm of a brand-new break-up; making sense of the immature battles and needless bloodshed. Run is a cautionary tale that implores people (facing the same predicament) to get the Hell away. Echoed, far-off guitars open the track and act like the breaking dawn: Following on from the previous night, our heroine is on the road and walking away. Looking at “fake memories” and clothing coming away- excuse offered to avoid an unwanted experience- it sees Shaddad at her most conflicted. Walking the path- trying to throw off the scent of her man- it is one of the most ethereal and mature songs on record. Shaddad is not needless profane, direct and angsty: Every lyric seems like it was well-considered, deeply-thought and the result of huge lessons. Wars had a bold and propulsive nature: Run is ironically slow-moving and funeral. Shaddad is not just trying to escape a man for her own good: She implores him to get away “as fast as you can” before things are too late. Maybe our heroine knows her own future- she might explode or push him away- and is being kind, here. The boy needs to get out and hit the bricks- our heroine needs time to her own- and you immerse yourself in the chaos. If anything, you sympathise for the man: You can imagine teary exchanges and stuttered pleas. Our heroine lets her voice crack slightly- you can sense the emotion getting to her; this song resonates directly- whilst the composition remains disciplined and sparse. The spotlight is on the vocal which keeps pleading and rising: Sending out the warning siren to a man who is perhaps better off. Few songwriters turn the tables and offer humanity: Shaddad wants her love to go before she ruins him, essentially it. It is a heartfelt and considerate action from someone who is going through repentance and self-investigation. As the emotions get more fevered and hot: The composition clashes like waves and becomes much more dangerous. Perhaps signifying a boat tossed against the rocks: The electronics swell like waves whilst the percussion clatters in the stormy weather. Mantras and lyrics are repeated in a conversation style: It is as though Shaddad is shouting these words to her man; needing to reinforce them against his protestations and heartache. Climaxing with some wonderfully raw compositional notes- contorted electronics and something snarling- the song is wrapped up with the biggest impact you could imagine.
After the stormy and exhilarating passion of the E.P.’s opening duo: Always is a softer and more restrained affair. The track has gained kudos from various publications who have noted the candid and cathartic nature of the song. Wars is an E.P. of two halves: The fiery and confused lover who is breaking up with someone. The second half sees a woman rebuilding her life with someone new; unable to forget the memory of her vanquished true love. Perhaps the most drained and soul-baring song on the record: Always opens with reverent strings and magisterial electronics. That juxtapose and bond creates a swelling mood that leads to our heroine’s whispered voice. Thinking of her man- trying not to- she is falling into “someone new”. Like a winter flower- a beautiful creation battered by harsh weather- you “still exist”. Shaddad is going through the motions in order to gain physicality and comfort- perhaps not committed to her new guy. Maybe she sits in her bedroom and looks out the window: Always is like a diary entry that documents absolute honesty. The song is an ecumenical experience- almost religious in its nature- whilst the central vocal is among the E.P.’s most beautiful and powerful. The composition remains sparse and light- to start, there are spattering drums and few other influences- that grows as the song progresses. To punctuate the verses- and provide aural story development- the guitars become more cohesive, structured and filmic. The percussion gains discipline and the conjoined paramour gets inside the mind. Run’s opening tracks contained complicated emotions and oblique lyrics: Unobvious words that could act as a metaphor for the state of the relationship (crossed lies and confused sentiments). Now the war has ended- the dust has settled and Shaddad yearns for the hero- lyrics are more simplified and clear. No time for pretty phrases and depth: Here is a woman who knows what she wants and wants us to know how hurt she is. For that reason, every listener will understand every line and its meanings- there is no room for misinterpretation. If the listener felt conflicted towards Shaddad in the opening two tracks- unsure of her motives and culpability- your heart belongs to her completely. You can feel those open wounds and her fragility and cracks in a very brave and strong woman. Always is the shortest track (from Run) and it needs to be: Our heroine sounds positively exhausted after the 189-second song completes.
In a way, you don’t want Run to end. You know what Make It Go Away concerns- given the songs that came before- but you know how the song will conclude. The listener wants Shaddad to be happy and content by the E.P.’s end: Given the nature of the final track; will this transformation occur on a new E.P.? Like Big Deal’s completed trilogy- from broken to fixed; back to broken- Run is almost like a trilogy mid-way point. Waters was a tranquil and probing work that saw a young woman embracing her passion: Wanting her heart captured and aware of the pitfalls of love. Run sees the heroine flees and finds herself conflicted by a relation’s end: Pushing a man away but unable to get over him. Will an E.P. number three- maybe something called Reborn– see the London singer find firm love and show a heart settled and adored? No end, for we must look at Run’s swansong. A stark track that awakens with a weariness and sense of lamentation. I have seen critics compare Shaddad to Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star’s quixotic and compelling lead) and they seem appropriate here. Our heroine’s voice is at the centre- the composition is happy to add influence when needed- and this is the most naked and harrowing confession she has laid to record. Gleaming interview- promoting Run to the media fans- I know Shaddad wants to remain a little guarded and less revealing. In the middle of a rancorous break-up- at a breaking point and feeling she needed to get these words onto tape- Make It Go Away is the music equivalent of a woman who is about to completely break down. Shaddad is determined not to cheapen her experience and end with something fake and saccharine. The most depressive and earnest track on the album: Make It Go Away sees our heroine admitting: “I never did deserve you”. Words are repeated- “It is easy”- to give the listener little doubt: How the Hell is she going to recover from this? Oddly, the track is one of the catchiest on record. The instrumentation and mixing are stunning: Bringing the best from each player; each component adds a new dimension and enhances the overall experience. Shaddad (as a writer) is brilliant at writing for musicians: Knowing exactly how to articulate an emotion or sentiment via the medium of performance. Make It Go Away is almost choir-like in its intensity and scope: Layering her vocals brings the E.P. to the absolute precipice of emotion. You can almost hear Thom Yorke sing “This is my final fit/my final bellyache” as he embraces a romance with carbon monoxide. Shaddad is stepping toward the water and wants to erase her thoughts: The pain is almost too much to live with. By the time the track ends, the listener will feel like a better person. We are hearing something completely honest and pure: This woman is not hiding anything and we are treated to something we may never hear again.
I hope Eliza Shaddad has a nice man in her life and is a happy woman. I say this as a concerned fan who has taken so much from Run. The E.P. drips with emotion, blood and tears: Every song seems to show our heroine become weaker and more submissive as time progresses. Congratulations must go to Chris Bond (producer). Ensuring every song sounds completely essential and brilliant: He brings the best from Shaddad and gives her a perfect platform. Catherine Marks brilliant mixes everything and provides a wonderful balance and sense of control. Lesser hands would be daunted by the emotions and contradictions: Unable to properly mix instruments, vocals and lyrics together. As it is, she has helped make Run something nuanced and endlessly fascinating. Andrew Bond oversaw the engineering and is another crucial element in the E.P.’s success. Special applause must go to Shaddad who have unveiled her finest work. I know how much toil and work went into each song- she would demo them straight away; it took months between those demos being laid and the final versions being premiered- and you will be stunned by the honesty and impact the E.P. has. I cannot recommend Run enough, so do not be put off: The songs might be honest/raw but they will make you a better music lover for hearing them. Keeping things simple and sparse- few instruments recorded on basic equipment- helps to highlight the soul-baring nature of the E.P.
Eliza Shaddad is one of those artists who has a strong vision and never betrays her own instincts. A lot of songwriters dump too much into songs and expound little intrigue. Shaddad pares her lyrics down to the essentials- economical and to-the-point with her words- and ensures there are no wasted moments. The compositions have a density and experimentation but never run away with themselves. Our heroine’s skill and precisions ensure her songs have a familiarity and impact upon first listen- reveal new layers each time you go for a spin. To that end; Run is an E.P. that seamlessly integrates the personal and every-day. You get confessional insight and revelations: Never do you feel drawn into something awkward and cliché. The lyrics show an intelligent mind who can create phrases that stick in the mind. Tropes mix with metaphors; the stark can bounce with the beautiful: Every line is logical and nuanced. It is not just the lyrics book that gets inside the head and compels you to dig deep. That central voice carries myriad emotions and sides. It is clear Shaddad’s musical upbringing has enforced her direction. You hear elements of Soul queens in the mix: Bits of modern-day Pop and bygone Blues pioneers. It is a beguiling chemistry that beautifully soundtracks every song. Few artists expend a lot of time on compositions: Making sure they resonate and create their own impact. I feel a lot of singers- not reserved to any gender, here- assume their own voices will do most of the work. Unless you have the pipes of Freddie Mercury- no-one since him has got near- then you have to think about every component. Shaddad is a musician who is able to create drama and story without a single word being sung. Isolate those compositions and you get a stand-alone piece of art.
Not to over-dramatise with florid language: I mean there is a lot of attention and thought put into the music. When you bring all these chemicals together- the bittersweet words and dark run-flavoured voice- and add it in with something with darker shades: The resultant taste is one that certainly leaves you wanting more. A musician who knows the importance of nuance: It is small wonder Shaddad has such a dedicated fan-base. Run sees the young heroine builds upon early promise with fresh revelation and promise. The songwriter was great to begin with; it sounds ever more urgent and attention-grabbing than before. In that vein; the songs are tighter, more focused and majestic- without sacrificing ambition and wonder. Whilst I type this I am listening to Beck’s album, Guero. An apropos point- trust me, it’s going somewhere- I hear comparisons (to Shaddad). Last night, I dreamt about Guero and could not figure out why. Its Latin rhythms and snaking beats conspired vivid scenes; that distinctive drawl beat around the brain; the experimental genre-fuse obsessed my sleeping mind.
Upon waking, I started to listen to Run. When Beck was a slip of a thing- his ‘90s regency when Odelay was seducing critics- that experimental, balls-to-the-wall freewheel amazed minds. Splicing Hip-Hop with jagged beats; strange samples and every-genre-mixed-together sat with huge confidence and commitment. Odelay is regarded as one of the hallmark albums of the ‘90s. When Guero arrived in 2005; Beck returned (to a lesser degree) to that Odelay-esque sound. A more mature and settled companion- Beck was in his 30s at this point- that bravery, boldness and amazement was still there. Shaddad shares D.N.A. with Beck: The way the two subvert expectations and go beyond their peers. In a way, our heroine links Beck’s Guero with Sea Change: Fusing more melancholic reflection with experimentation and constant movement. Whilst Eliza Shaddad will never go to the lengths Beck does- the wacky humour and out-there music- I am impressed to discover an artist who steps away from the ordinary and is truly individual. Run sees our heroine embracing some deep concerns and tackling life’s problems head-on. Sure, there are some raw emotions on display but you never feel uncomfortable and a bystander. Shaddad brings you into the music and motivates you to reflect upon your own lives. Few artists go to those lengths, so it is paramount we all get behind Run. Another triumphant E.P. that sees a bold artist grow in confidence and scope; few modern-day musicians…
DO things quite like her.
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