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Eska - Eska (Review)

Eska, Eska

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

ESKA is one of the most talked about, revered singers you’ve probably never heard of. Having built an inimitable reputation as a writer and performer through collaborations with such legends of the game as Grace Jones, Cinematic Orchestra, Zero 7 and Bobby McFerrin, she’s now going it alone.

And her eponymous debut LP showcases a really bright talent, whose vocal range is incredible. Comparisons may fly thick and fast with everyone from Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Kate Bush and Martina Topley-Bird but she’s also undeniably her own person.

Album opener This Is How A Garden, for instance, is a moody gem. Yes, it may represent a low-key start where instrumentals are at a minimum. But the gospel-like backing and subtle beats, guitars and pianos provide the kind of backdrop in which her richly soulful vocals can flourish. And it’s very much her vocals that that take centre-stage throughout.

That said, there are also some interesting instrumental arrangements to go with them. An early highlight, Gatekeeper, has a terrific backing, with a stop-start percussion and a really insistent and appealing whistling melody that really does lend it a distinctive edge.

Boundaries, in contrast, has an almost folky vibe to it instrumentally, while Eska’s vocals have a melancholy undertow that’s equally appealing. But it’s low-key, stripped back folk.

She’s In The Flowers, meanwhile, has the spirit of Africa in its instrumentals and finds Eska employing more urgency in her vocals. It’s striking by virtue of the fact that it draws from a different continent and isn’t afraid to mix it with some of the more commercial elements of the LP. It’s clear Eska is an artist who is ambitious and confident enough to mix things up and draw from a variety of sources.

It’s an element to the album that makes it even more appealing, even if you don’t necessarily always like the directions it takes. For while some tracks are more acquired tastes, there are those that offer an undeniable sweep in their appeal.

Shades of Blue, for instance, has an insistent central hook and some smart vocal layering that recalls classic Martina Topley-Bird, To Be Remembered showcases a beautiful, piano-led ballad that’s wonderfully bittersweet lyrically, Dear Everlyn is deliciously a capella yet highly melodic (further stretching her vocal range) and So Long Eddy is almost Carpenters-esque in its delivery (and every bit as stunning).

In short, Eska has delivered a really eye-catching debut LP that enables her to confidently step out from other people’s shadows to be recognised as the talent she really is.

Download picks: Gatekeeper, She’s In The Flowers, Shades of Blue, To Be Remembered, Dear Evelyn, So Long Eddy

Track listing:

  1. This Is How A Garden
  2. Gatekeeper
  3. Rock Of Ages
  4. Boundaries
  5. She’s In The Flowers
  6. Shades Of Blue
  7. Heroes & Villains
  8. To Be Remembered
  9. Dear Evelyn
  10. So Long Eddy