Album reviews: Nina Nesbitt – The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change, and Highasakite – Uranium Heart

Nina NesbittThe Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change

★★★★☆

The music industry can be bitterly indifferent towards talented women, and infuriatingly nice to mediocre men. 

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If she’d been male, Swedish-Scottish pop artist Nina Nesbitt might have received a warmer reception to her debut album, Peroxide, than she did back in 2014. Her earnest, guitar-based sound was certainly nowhere near as bad as the reviews made out at the time. Certainly no worse than offerings by artists such as George Ezra or Ed Sheeran

It was probably a good thing in the long term, though. After parting ways with a major label, Nesbitt is back with her second LP, switching to a brand of soul and R&B-fused pop that feels bang on time, and suits her far better. The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change has slick, polished production from Fraser T Smith (Adele), Lostboy (Anne-Marie), Jordan Riley (Zara Larsson), and Nesbitt herself.

Several tracks tap into a Nineties R&B sound that UK women, from Mabel to Ella Mai, are excelling at right now. Assertive tracks “Loyal to Me” and “Love Letter” nod to TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor”, but there is vulnerability, too, in the acoustic guitar-led neo-soul of  “Somebody Special”, and the tender heartbreak on ”Is it Really Me You’re Missing”.

Nesbitt offers blunt songwriting in a genre that far too often deals in vague clichés. “I was signed, and falling in love for the very first time / But that f***ed me up / So then I had issues with falling in love,” the 24-year-old sings on “The Moments I’m Missing”, which tackles the fallout from chasing a career in the music industry.

Listen to tender ballad “Last December”, meanwhile, and you’ll probably think of early Taylor Swift, but the breathless “Best You Had” also recalls her later work on Reputation. With a stamp of approval from the queen of pop herself, hopefully this time Nesbitt will get credit where it’s due.

An album of true gems (Propeller Recordings)

Highasakite – Uranium Heart

★★★☆☆

“It’s so hard,” sings Highasakite’s Helene Håvik on “Too Early”, “not asking you to wait, for one more rainy day.”

Those yearning words set the precedent for the Norwegian band’s third album, Uranium Heart, throughout which Håvik seeks connection to a significant other.

It’s not a complete departure from their previous sound, but it does feel less pop and techno-led than their debut Silent Treatment, which had the longest consecutive chart run in Norway’s history (two years). Nor does it sound much like 2016’s Camp Echo (named as a Joy Division-esque reference to the isolation unit at Guantanamo Bay), after which the band was trimmed down from a four-piece to a duo comprising Håvik and Trond Bersu.

Here, they opt for subtle, layered prog instrumentation that allows for a better focus on Håvik’s idiosyncratic vocal stylings. One moment, her voice veers towards the euphoria of her peer, Sigrid, the next it nods to the muted whispers of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who invited Highasakite on tour in 2014 after being blown away by their live show.

There’s a notable absence of anything as poignant as their acoustic rendition of Camp Echo’s “Samurai Swords”, a track so beautiful that it lingers in the mind long after the final note. “Mexico”, with its pulsating, Eighties-influenced synth beats from Bersu, comes very close; so, too, does the quietly defiant “Out of Order”, which has the sweeping drama of a Kristin Chenoweth Broadway musical. Uranium Heart is slightly longer than it needs to be, but if you take the time, then the true gems on this album will shine through.  

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