A favourite with Goldflakepaint who has signed to Jagjaguwar (Bon Iver, Sharon Van Etten), when we first heard Briana Marela we were left with goosebumps by her gorgeous, glacial voice. A Washington native, she headed over to Iceland to record debut album ‘All Around Us’ with Sigur Rós producer Alex Somers. With strings arranged by Amiina, we’re expecting something sumptuous from this record…
‘Follow It’ is a very subtle opener with Briana’s voice singing melodies that gently layer over each other alongside synths and effects before being joined by grand strings and beautifully paced drums. The Bjork-esque vocals are not entirely comprehensible on first listen but the words ‘Follow it, wherever you are’ are sung with real clarity. More atmospheric, ‘Take Care of Me’ follows and this is a combination of glitchy pop and hints of post rock. It’s very understated and wouldn’t have felt out of place on Goldfrapp’s first album. It’s also very heartbreaking when Briana sighly sings the words ‘You take care of me like I’m the only one’.
‘Friend Tonight’ is wonderfully floaty with moments of pure pop harmonies, while the subject looks about moving on from a relationship and trying to remain platonic with a former lover: ‘There are still sparks between us, but don’t come back to my bed tonight. I just need a friend tonight’. There’s an instrumental breakdown as Briana briefly changes her minds and states ‘I can’t face the darkness without you, come over…’ Heavily doused in strings, the Spiritualized-esque ‘Dani’ will bring a tear to the eye of even the most emotionally stunted person. Full of Nordic wonder, it becomes more powerful every time you listen.
Although many of the songs are tinged with sadness, there’s also some real positivity throughout the nine-song album. ‘Think of all the possibilities. We can do anything’ is sung in ‘I Don’t Belong to You’ and really does leave its mark, while the words ‘It’s not a competition. Everyone has music within them’ are some that many bands would do well to adhere. Throughout the entire record, Brianna wears her heart on her sleeve and title track ‘All Around Us’ seems to be a celebration of life: ‘There is meaning in every movement that keeps us alive’. There’s also a sincerity in the delivery of ‘If you love me, say it now and mean it’ (it doesn’t sound anywhere near as threatening when it’s sung, as opposed to written down). The seven-minute slow-burner ‘Further’ closes the album as Briana’s gliding vocals are looped over and over as she first sings ‘Nothing’s good enough’ and then, as it gets more classical, repeats the three words ‘Have it all’.
With electronica that would delight Baths fans and an all-encompassing sound reminiscent of Bat for Lashes, this is an incredibly rewarded listening. We hope it will be ‘all around us’ for a long time to come…
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