Shura – Nothing’s Real

Polydor | 2016

“When people get the record as a whole, they really will get a sense of me being this person who’s in love with so many different genres of music, yet it all fits together.” Shura.

That’s what this gem of a songwriter shared with me a little while back as we chatted about the new record, due to drop in under two weeks’ time.

As I sit in my bedroom – there could have been no other place – letting the album wash over me, I realise two things. One, that she was absolutely right. Two? Nothing could have prepared me for the gripping spacey vibes, ’70s-style bass and drums (which need to be brought back more often) and vocals that are punchy one minute and gorgeously wispy the next.

I’m immediately submerged as a child’s laughter sounds while soft guitar wails in the background. This crackles out, allowing the title track’s ethereal pop vibe and strong bass groove to hit me fully. Shura’s incredibly smooth vocals are complemented by the game-like noises, and a hints of guitar licks.

“I see my heartbeat inside a television screen.”

The following tune ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ really showcases the artist’s collaboration with California-born producer Greg Kurstin. It offers an upbeat change of pace which gets the dance party going, while lilting guitar enhances vocals that are both introspective and outward-projecting.

Then, the mood becomes sultry as ‘Touch’ slows things right down, with Shura’s beautiful vocal restraint and great harmonies matching the overall tone. Complete with strong bass and soft yet powerful keyboard towards the end, it’s a highlight. However, while the spacey vibe comes back hard on ‘Kidz ‘n’ Stuff’ and Shura’s low vocals are offset well with high instrumental sounds, the song’s length causes it to drag.

With the groovy bass reminiscent of those classic walking basslines, a timeless ’70s pop vibe on sixth tune ‘Indecision’ transitions nicely into the simpler drive of ‘What Happened To Us?’.

“I was never ready for your love.”

Here Shura really injects some punch into her dreamy voice, a dynamic matching the strength of her lyrical revelation. Just another highlight of the record. But the best is yet to come.

The next short section is brimming with nostalgia as a young Shura is asked by her dad whether she loves her brother ‘Nicky’. Cheekily, she replies with “Not very much”, providing the perfect segue for another top track in ‘Tongue Tied’. This one contrasts really well with the rest of the record, being consistent in its pacing and swelling synths.

“Do you ever make it up?” 

This one line in the following track, sung in different ways, captures various shades of isolation, unease and chaos after a tough break-up as Shura peers at herself from the outside as “One girl on the last train”. A huge drumbeat and beautifully muted vocals on ‘2shy’ then transition into the start of sheer three-song brilliance, kicking off with ‘White Light’.

“I don’t mind if we never go home”. 

Oh yes. Not only is the spacey vibe back, but Shura deftly combines star (and soul) gazing with vocal intensity. It culminates into a wall of wailing guitar towards the end that truly sounds “like Pink Floyd” (Shura).

Now the next track’s a secret one, so I won’t reveal much. However, it’s one of my favourites, featuring some golden harmonies, low notes I never could have anticipated and a mesh of different voices (I say no more).

But one song I have no trouble talking about is ‘The Space Tapes’ as the album’s climax, an epic sonic experience where I went in expecting a single journey… and came out travelling through three.

A massive, raw ’70s kick drum sound is mixed well with a distorted child’s cry and Shura’s reverbing yet surprisingly hard-hitting voice. I’m immersed into the eerie vibe that could certainly feature in a horror/sci-fi film.

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There’s more yet to come. With high synths playing and Shura’s voice washing in and out, there’s so much experimentation with sounds that I’m really taken places.

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But its the third and final piece that really set me off, ocean-like noises feeding into soft wailing guitar before that ’70s drum vibe kicks back in. The bass that comes to life is also reminiscent of that era, and the atmosphere swells as the song slows to a crawl. Then, it fades out like you’ve suddenly been dropped from high altitude back down to earth.

To the incredible artist herself I say this: Someone may have said that you “look like Kurt Cobain and sing like Kylie Minogue”, but no. You. Are. Shura.


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