Forevher (Secretly Canadian/Inertia)
There’s a delicacy to Shura’s songs which, when she’s at her best, feels like a spun web of deceptive strength that when caught at the right angle, glistens in the sunlight.
The rhythm is liquid but propulsive; the melody lands lightly; the interplay of ‘70s soul and pop with ‘90s R&B is beguiling and sensual.
In Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me), the call to play, the most direct promise to a new lover that she can have Shura at any time of her choosing, is as alluring as the leaning-forward bassline and as stylish as the lark-ascending strings.
And when, in the next song, Stage, Shura describes a date at a concert where the idea that they “can spend the evening kissing” feels like a glorious temptation for a listener as much as her girlfriend, there’s a jauntiness to its Carole Bayer Sager-like verses that doesn’t put a spring in your step; it assumes it was always there.
An album about falling in love, and most decidedly in lust - partly from a long distance and then with punctuations of intense proximity – Forevher has many moments of skin touched with a sheen of perspiration. If it wasn’t written in the immediate afterglow of sex, it was certainly while the memory of it was felt in the lips and fingertips.
There’s exploration and exultation, Shura playful but determined: letting Side Effects swing in the breeze, knowing it has the weight; freeing BKLYNLDN to drift away because its intensity has tethered it to the real.
The flipside to this is that when other elements don’t have the same pull, that delicacy can feel as if they’re a harsh breath away from falling apart. A song which begins as if to soar can drift instead.
The dreamy ballad Princess Leia, for example, has a rich, late ‘60s folk/pop shape to it and the idea of soaking in its (expected) lushness and then flying higher still, is immediately appealing. However, even though it has a clever and amusing lyrical conceit, its promise remains only partially fulfilled by its end, the song not quite sticking in part because it provides neither the lushness nor the elevation.
It takes the more prominent pop turn of Flyin’, with its near-stamping middle section a kind of grounding centre to the flighty pleasures either side of it, to show how that might be done.
Likewise, while Control has all the earmarks of one of those slinky soul grooves seen elsewhere on the album, it never really lifts itself from a kind of laid back in a deckchair energy to bring enough of the hinted-at sexual energy.
Oddly enough that comes in the more sombre-sounding Skyline, Be Mine, where the spectre of darkness at the corners gives the Air-style floating tune just enough earthiness to accentuate the mood of desire.
Earthiness and delicacy, sweat with what is merely suggested: when it works, Forevher is an appealing insinuation.