JumpAttack! Records (label)
01 July 2019 (released)
The modern music industry has always gravitated towards the idea of a young star and they seem to get younger every year. Now, some of that draw is definitely superficial. Youth is the dragon we all chase so seeing someone on stage without the slightest birth of a wrinkle makes us awe and envy. However, it's not just our appreciation of cosmetic jejunity that draws us to young acts. There is a fascination with seeing humans who should still be deep in training mode, exhibiting talents that us fully formed beings can't perform. Just a glance at YouTube or Instagram and you'll find a plethora of child virtuosos slaying any instrument. With singers we see incredible feats of vocal prowess from vocalists at a staggeringly young age but perhaps the most arresting characteristic to us by a young singer, is being able to exude a soul and wisdom beyond their years. Charles Bradley had 7 years of heartaches and pain to draw from but to hear a kid sing about heartbreak and have you not instantly dismiss but internalize and empathize, that is a rare talent.
British Columbian singer and multi-instrumentalist Aza Nabuko's main headline is that at a strikingly young 16, she is exhibiting a maturity and soul very much beyond her years. Similar to the meteoric rise of Billie Eilish, Nabuko is captivating because she mixes a youthful exuberance with wistful reflection. Plus she has the pipes to back it up slipping from serene falsetto into coarse, aching belt with ease. Born in picturesque North Vancouver and now residing in the equally beautiful mountain town of Revelstoke, BC, Aza has taken inspiration from this gorgeous province and crafted a six-song EP that explores the ins and out of finding your place in the world as a young woman.
Her first pursed words that open the album have the inflection of a Fiona Apple line with all the swoops and dives she can deliver in a single breath. However, Nabuko's presence is not scorned and rage-filled but understanding and reservedly hopeful. Some lines are a little over-stacked like they are forcing too many words into a line. 'Ordinary' follows this up with a string-guided pop ballad preaching the value of individuality. The song is featured in a video of Nabuko sauntering around Vancouver's trendy Gastown district, waxing poetic over quirkiness amid cobblestone roads and exposed brick buildings.
Although the first half of the EP contains all of her featured songs, it's the second half that has the best material. 'Heart of Concrete' is a maritime swaying, wistful ballad. 'Space Between' takes a dose of Portishead with it's descending electric piano while Nabuko's angelic falsetto emotes the pain of doves crying. 'When We Fall in Love' is another earnest ballad that should find a home in many melancholic girl's bedrooms.
Her self-titled debut showcases a strong talent that shines despite her age not because of it. She has passion, patience and relatable genuine emotion. It's hard to say how drastically the performance was sculpted by producer Kaj Falch-Nielsen but you can't fake soul in a voice. Hopefully, as her young career takes off, she'll make some creative turns with her music to find a niche that takes advantage of her talents.