Don’t Chase is available at:
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The E.P. Laura Roy is available via:
Looking the Other Way
Take Me Down
ANOTHER week has passed and we find ourselves in the midst of yet…
more unsettlement and terrorism. It is almost ‘expected’ that we will wake to hear devastating news somewhere around the world. It seems like an odd thing to open a review with: music is that sanctuary that allows us a place to hide and reflect. It is not often I get to investigate a Canadian artist- I used to a lot but have not done lately- so it is great to discover another tremendous Canadian musician. Before I come to her, it is worth looking at the best Canadian acts around; the strength of current artists emerging- finishing by looking at the importance of starting the musical education young. In terms of the country’s legendary acts: everyone from Rush and Arcade Fire have called Canada home. I have said it in previous reviews but is remains true: a nation that continues to promulgate and create some of music’s very best. Of course, we could look at the historic acts and what they have brought to the world. In terms of the modern acts emanating from here: we should keep our eyes out for a few prime examples. The Franklin Electric are based out of Montreal and have been tipped as one of Canada’s most exciting young acts. A hook-laden sound that mixes Indie and Folk together has seen the ensemble collect rave reviews. Reuben and the Dark and Brave Shores are worth spending more time with. The latter, in particular, are renowned for their insanely catchy songs and brother-sister connection. HIGHS have been growing in stature since touring with Twin Forks and Cold War Kids last year.
The Toronto band are another example of just what is lurking within Canada. I use the word ‘lurking’ because it seems almost conspiratorial. I have been lamenting the fact certain nations are overlooked by the British media. We are keen to proffer homegrown examples but rarely expand into foreign territory. Sure, the U.S. is featured heavily but why not Canada? Laura Roy is based out of Nova Scotia, which is a area many of us would not normally think of (when it comes to great music). Hillsburn are one of those bands that blow you away live. Not an opinion reserved to the locals: powerful visuals and contagious vocals; pummeling energy and a kinetic band bond mean their shows are the stuff of legends. The Stanfields are stalwarts of the European and Canadian scene: having been performing for years; they are a native group that provides sweat, memorability and a raucous night. The Town Heroes have picked up awards in Nova Scotia and it is not hard to see why. The guys rock hard and are among the most consistent and engaging acts in Canada. The Jimmy Swift Band, The Trews, and Gypsophilia are a trio of Nova Scotia acts, but in truth, it is the tip of the iceberg. Unless you are in close proximity or well-connected across social media, how do you ever hear about these acts?
It might be a debate for another day but the factor remains: Canada is a nation that should be put in the spotlight; their musicians are among the finest in the world. Laura Roy hardly does much to dissuade my opinions. Canada has quite a few hot Pop-cum-R&B stars: many of them will not linger long in the mind. The last few years have been productive and busy for Roy. Battling to make a name for herself; there seems to be no stopping her right now. One of those musicians that connects with producers and gets herself out there: small wonder she has resonated and caught the eye of some big names. Before I carry on my points; let me introduce Laura Roy to you:
“Laura Roy is a singer/songwriter based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A captivating songwriter, vocalist and college music graduate, Laura has shared the stage with the likes of Canadian RnB sensation Jully Black, JRDN, Ludacris, Rakim and Freddy Gibbs. Voted “Best R&B Artist” by the Coast Magazine, she is known for her powerhouse pop-RnB vocals. Laura is also a four-year attendee of the prestigious Gordie Sampson Songcamp, put on by the Grammy-winning writer in Nova Scotia every summer, and was invited to participate in songwriting camps via The Songwriter’s Association of Canada in Montreal and Toronto in 2015.
During these camps, Laura had the opportunity to write and connect with producers and writers like Rob Wells (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande), Alex Greggs (N’Sync, Lady Gaga, Mad Decent), Caitlyn Smith (Meghan Trainor, John Legend, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, Cassadee Pope), and Gordie Sampson himself (Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill). Needless to say, Laura has come a long way since selling her first EP out of her backpack at the age of 16 on school lunch breaks. The project contains 6 songs infused with synth-pop, 90’s r&b vibes with soulful melodies and catchy hooks, she adds “I’ve been working on the EP for the last year and a half. I’ve tried to make sure the music represents my experiences in a way that feels true to who I am as an artist right now”. Written and recorded in Toronto and New York City with producers Adam King, Joel Stouffer (Dragonette) and Ari Leff (Epique), Laura Roy’s debut EP is now available on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music”.
I have waxed lyrical about 2016’s best albums. Every month seems to unveil treasure and surprise. Shura is the latest artist who has really caught my ear. Her debut album, Nothing is Real, is primed to ride high in the charts this weekend. A singer that gets into the heart and distinguishes herself from the raft of Pop/mainstream acts. Languid and introverted on the one hand; theatricality and presence on the other. The East London star is someone that has hit the ground running seemingly. Inspired by Janet Jackson and Madonna: her music hits the heart and puts you in mind of the greats of Pop. Away from her, there is ample evidence to suggest this year will be a good one. The past few years have seen determinable and varied quality. This year, something remarkable has happened. I am not sure what has motivated it- perhaps this is the sign of things to come? – but wonderful albums keep tumbling forth. Laura Roy is working hard to ensure she ranks among the mainstream’s finest. Like Shura; Roy avoids clichés and makes old subjects feel new and revitalised. A mix of confidence, playfulness and fragility remain; a blend that feeds into the music. It is Roy’s personality and drive that comes to the surface with intensity. Many artists start music quite late (or develop a passion for it late) and seem rather inexperienced and uncertain. Growing up around a wide range of artists and sounds: Roy’s early life and childhood compelled her to write her own songs. I myself became obsessed with music from a young age. I feel that everyone should involve themselves during childhood: there is no excuse to overlook and ignore wonderful music these days. The love and connection Roy experienced through music can be heard in her latest offerings. Her eponymous E.P. has already picked up some lucrative and praise-heavy reviews. From the U.K. to Australia: journalists and fans have been queuing up to lend their opinions. We get that blend of familiar and unique with Roy.
When it comes to assessing Roy’s current endeavours; it is worth looking back and seeing where she started. Older tracks like Tonight and Getting Back to Loving Me have a lot in common with Laura Roy material. The vocal and sound is quite similar and no radical reinvention was required. The subject matter stays close to issues of love and commitment; embracing what you have and honesty in general. The biggest difference from the older material and current offerings is the conviction and confidence that emanates through. I say this about a lot of artists but it rings true here. You can detect that step-up and leap forward. More assured and convincing: Laura Roy is the moment the heroine announces herself as a true artist and future star. Maybe it is the subject matter or production; the time that has passed but you can definitely detect a change and growth. Her E.P. brims with wonderful songs and instant smashes. No filler material to be found; it is a record that is not designated only to Pop and R&B lovers. The coming years will be interesting to see. Whether Roy keeps with her sound and expands it somewhat, we can only guess. A lot of the song themes have familiarity and predictability to them but never presented in a tired and obvious way. Over time, it may be hard breathing new life and invention into topics of love, heartache and the like. I, for one, will be excited to see how Laura Roy evolves and changes as an artist. For now, we have an extraordinary talent who is starting to hit her peak form. Laura Roy is an E.P. that can perfectly soundtrack any day and season. It has an evergreen nature that extends beyond setting and time. The themes, subjects, and sounds will resonate with many and do not push anybody away. Some musicians are too niche and insular; never truly welcoming everyone in. No such qualms when it comes to Laura Roy.
The finger clicks and distorted vocals swing in heavy and hard. The initial moments see shuddering electronics and solid beats (again electronic) provide plenty of drama and emotion. It is an out-the-gates song that does not get too heavy early on. Instead, you have a subtle, sexy song that is keen to shake its hips and elicit a smooth groove. Roy’s voice is high, proud and determined. Balancing Pop accessibility with something a little raw and R&B- a performance that brings to light the song’s tease and mystique. Our heroine has to stop chasing something- whether a boy or an ideal- and seems frustrated. Maybe being kept awake and tormented: it is right there “in front of me”; teasing and heartbreaking all at once. Most will instantly jump to ideas of love and satisfaction. Perhaps a particular man is in her thoughts: someone who is causing trituration and desire; she is unable to release that frustration and get what she needs. That instinct to chase and push too hard- our heroine wants a little taste- is palpable. Your mind starts thinking of other possibilities and potential.
Maybe not reserved to passion and affairs of the heart. Perhaps the song relates to ambitions and fulfilling dreams; a desire that stems from the soul rather than the heart. “Tell me when it’s going down” gives the lyrics a sense of tangibility (for a teenage audience) but something deeper. On paper, you would think Roy to be your average Pop star. When you start decoding and listening to the lyrics; you discover someone a lot richer and more developed than her peers. We never deal with tropes and stereotypes. The lines marry simplicity and complex without either losing identity or confounding the listener. Before the chorus arrives; ideas of a drugs fix get introduced. So strong and eager is this need: it is hard to shake off; causing shivers and anxiety. When the chorus finally does arrive- the momentum had been building for some time- it is a joyous and instant Pop hook; a confident and impassioned vocal that is celebratory and cautious. There is a part of the heroine that offers sage advice (not chasing something that will come to you) but a determination and recklessness- keep pushing and hoping no matter what. The beats explode and the electronics swell: everything gets bigger, brighter and more intense. Few will be immune to the impact and instancy of that chorus: one that is delivered perfectly. The heroine implores economy and patience. If you chase it- whether a dream or another human- then you risk losing everything. It is no good being too eager and thinking it will never happen. If you work hard and have belief: what you crave and dream of will find you. While an individual and unique voice: there are little shades of R&B contemporaries to be found.
Embers of Rhianna come out in the sexier, more luxuriant deliveries. That tone and intonation slip into some of the phrasing, which gives the song a sense of familiarity. Laura Roy is a singer that does not hang onto the coattails of others: she is her own boss and brings some influences into the palette without seeming replicate. Don’t Chase is a song that is relevant to all listeners. Not confined to teenage audiences and young women: everybody can find guidance and wisdom here. We all aim and have that urge to get something; we pine and desire things we feel are out of reach. Given what we know about Roy; it is likely music and success are in her sights. The beauty of Don’t Chase is the fact it is never too obvious and direct. You never take the lyrics at face value: each lyric can apply to different possibilities and scenarios. Our heroine’s heart races and palpitates; she wants it that bad: there is never exaggeration when she sings; you know how much it means. Plaudits must be given to the vocals but the composition too. Don’t Chase is built around a largely electronic foundation: it gives the song a fizz, panache, and ready-for-the-club vibe. A song that could get the beach-dwelling jumping; cause sweat and celebration in nightclubs- plenty of utilitarian potential and impact. Better than that; the track is radio-friendly and accessible. Stations across the globe will want to spin it and revel in its delights and layers. By the closing stages, you are desperate for the song to continue. After an exhilarating and wave-riding ride: the listener will want more; our heroine teases a little but does so perfectly. Too many musicians needlessly fill songs and provide extended instrumentals. That can cause a loss of focus and seem rather tacked-on. Roy ensures there is economy and concession in her music. Don’t Chase would be pretty ironic if it were to wander and linger too long. By keeping things short and to-the-point: the song will be repeated and revisited many times over. Few Pop-cum-R&B acts get me excited and stick in the mind. I feel there are too few that sound distinct and have their own way of working. Laura Roy is an artist who has grown up listening to legends but never duplicates what they have said. The highlight from her eponymous E.P.: Don’t Chase is a sunny, passionate song that is guaranteed to see Roy cross oceans and get into the heads of international ears.
Laura Roy is fairly fresh to the scene but already has proved she is up to the demands. So many young artists arrive without having thought things through. They will replicate others are write songs that are too familiar. Don’t Chase explodes right from the off and lets you know this is music from someone unlike anyone else. It is not an apportion when it comes to her E.P. If you thought Don’t Chase was an obvious highlight that makes everything else seem pale, then think again. Looking the Other Way is tumbling, busy and calm. The vocal has a smoothness and soulfulness to them. Our heroine is checking herself and trying not to say anything stupid. Supported by colourful electronics and a calming influence: there is that need for correct choices and well-chosen words. Maybe speaking with her boyfriend: there is a history and past that is coming to the surface; one wrong word and things could explode. Whether argument or something else has caused this situation; you are invested and interested to see where it goes. The beats snap and crackle; punch and pound: the vocal swings and swaggers but has vulnerability under the skin. Once more, we get a huge and vivacious chorus. “You can say it a million times” is a mantra that has some cold truths- the boy has screwed up and had his chance. Seeming pushy- the boy feels she is being unreasonable- he is playing the victim it seems. A perfect compassion piece to Don’t Chase: it is almost a juxtaposition in a lot of senses. The opening track is upbeat and restrained yet has a positivity and wise head on its shoulders. Looking the Other Way is nervier and angered. Roy is trying to keep things together and not lose her head.
Bright Lights comes in and provides some comfort and calm. Swimming in a sea that is “open wide” we get a story of Roy’s current light. Perhaps used to a more subtle and homely existence: the recent months/years have seen her embrace late nights and bright lights. Perhaps a metaphor for stardom and popularity: she is never losing focus and keeping the spirits high. People will try and drag you (our heroine) down but will never succeed. In the song, you get a sense of pining and longing. Perhaps a boy is at home and being missed but you would never know it. Our heroine is in the moment and in the whirlwind of the city. Living for the moment and embracing all life has to offer: a song that never loses its huge energy and force. The focus is on Roy’s voice which grows in eagerness and strength as the song progresses. Following a fraught and unsettled predecessor; Bright Lights provides some joy and distraction. Full Moon and Take Me Down show different sides to Roy. The former is a smooth and R&B-heavy song- one that puts me in mind of Aaliyah. Taking the lights down; it is the E.P.’s most reflective and heartfelt track. Setting her heart out there; once more, love comes back into the spotlights. Even when the sky pulls “us apart”; the love they have is a full moon. You cannot ignore the conviction and range in Laura Roy’s voice. Someone capable of switching moods and styles over the course of an E.P.; she is one of the most amenable and flexible singers in Pop. Take Me Down is a song that gets to business straight away. Determined, suave and sexualised: the heroine provides an alluring and enticing vocal. Her boy is causing quite a reaction in her. Fighting against the pull and allure: she is helpless and not willing to fight the feeling. Putting the song in the bedroom; it is one of the most ‘adult’ and risqué songs from the Canadian. Pushing against ideals and expectations- being for teenagers or just a girl- this proves Roy is a woman with urges and not willing to hide them. Catchy vocals (“Every time we do this” is delivered with twirl and accent; instantly repeatable) whilst the composition remains fairly composed and demurring.
Plastic closes proceedings with a huge punch and ceremony. The hardest-edged and gritty song on the album: Roy is strong and fighting throughout. Pushing her chest out and with fists aloft: this is a declaration from a woman that is not taking any crap. Plastic hearts cannot love or feel; her subject is getting a dressing-down. Comparisons to Arianne Grande, Rhianna, and their peers might come to mind. The song could ride high on the R&B charts and something a young Beyoncé would have killed for. It goes to show how versatile and unpredictable Roy is- whilst being consistent and focused. Previous numbers have shown a mix of fragility, exoticness, and hopefulness: a mixture of emotions and dynamics that give songs nuance and variation. Plastic is a track that signs her E.P. off with a huge impact. Almost the highlight- not quite able to steal the crown from Don’t Chase– your hat goes off to Laura Roy. She manages to evoke memories of R&B queens without ever stepping into their territory. What we get is a young artist with her own skin and her own stories. Every song is short and memorable- she never outstays her welcome or elongates unnecessarily. It means you get quite a few tracks but the E.P. never overruns. Too many provide a three/four-track E.P. that lasts for twenty minutes. Not only do they not provide enough contrast and content (in sheer numbers) but they need lack the necessary editing and honing.
Laura Roy has shown she is going to be on the scene for years and is an incredible artist. It was wonderful investigating her eponymous E.P. and you know more material will arrive. Whether the next year will see another E.P. or album; that will be exciting to see. As I mentioned; Roy has already gained reviews and press from various continents. Not just a hometown hero: the future is very bright for Roy. I would love to see her come to London and bring her music here. There is a clear market and plenty of stations/venues would love to host her. Before I get ahead of myself, it is worth pointing out the strengths and pluses she possesses. Don’t Chase is a stunning song that rattles around the head and will get everyone singing. Not just a shallow and vague song: lots of great advice and layers can be discovered; a song that keeps revealing joy and potential after dozens of listens. Those who like their music intelligent, instant and colourful; make sure you dive into Laura Roy and…
HAVE a smile put on your face.
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