One of Leona Lewis’ biggest assets is her voice – a rich, honeyed vocal that can wrap its way around any lyric and instrument light years beyond any of her contemporaries. It has been the siren’s calling card since her stint on the original UK version of The X Factor and her 2007 debut album Spirit. That album, designed to update the MOR-schmaltz that Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston occupied in the 90s, wonderfully displayed her glorious pipes with worldwide hit “Bleeding Love”. After the relative disappointment of her last record Echo, Lewis eschews the chugging, formulaic throwaway ballads for tempo and small experiments with fuzzy electronics on her newest album, Glassheart. Lewis brilliantly teams up with producer Fraser T. Smith (Adele, Taio Cruz) to helm much of the album that takes a distinct foray into dance music.
The first single “Trouble”, co-written by Emeli Sande, is a sleek homage to Massive Attack-like trip-hop with a bed of swelling strings, chronicling an emotional break up. Both the single-worthy title track “Glassheart” and “Come Alive” are pacey, looming numbers – a wall of Lewis’ lilting vocals sliding against eruptions of volcanic, feverish beats. On “Shake You Up”, Lewis lets loose on the summery Rodney Jerkins-produced track which wouldn’t sound out of place on any of Rihanna or Katy Perry album.
Even when the songs venture into the balladry of her first two records, they are less meandering and more progressive. Both “I to You” and “Fireflies” channel her influences of Kate Bush and Tracy Chapman as she respectively evokes mournfulness and marvel into her performances.
Glassheart benefits from increased writing contributions from Lewis as well as an injection of her personality, two key aspects that have been eclipsed by her walloping vocals. She sounds engaged and exuberant, even on quiet and muscular ballads like track “Fingerprint”. The album is a unified set of songs from an artist who has finally stepped outside of her comfort zone.
After the success of her second solo album Overpowered in 2007, Róisín Murphy continued her forray into dance and electronica. Aside from two self-released solo singles (the moody “Orally Fixated”, and the menacing Detroit techno of “Momma’s Place”), she appeared on tracks laced by the Italian duo Crookers and house music pioneer David Morales, among others.
This month via , Murphy releases “Simulation” – her first solo single in almost two years. , the slow-burning 11-minute original mix swells with sliding and hissing hi-hats, classic disco bass and shimmers of silky fender rhodes, providing an ecstatic atmosphere underneath layers of Murphy’s cooing vocals, which exude a sexuality that is equal parts refined and orgasmic. Aside from the original mix, the EP also features a dub remix by New York tribal-house guru Eric Kupper. An additional mix is served up by Mano Le Tough, a stunning rework that cascades synths over layers of percussion.