Eliza Shaddad has been on the radar of the UK music scene for over four years when she shared her folky debut EP, January – March. In the days, weeks, and years since, she’s lent her beautiful, Hope Sandoval-esque vocals on a handful of highly successful dance tunes; covered songs by the likes of Kiesza that exploded on the internet; and released several intimate tracks, including her second EP, that further spread her name. Despite the success and a growing fan base, it is on her new EP, Run, that Shaddad has truly planted herself as an artist to follow.
Gone is the innocent, young, singer-songwriter who searched for optimism and spun messages of hope on her debut EP. Gone is the young woman who relied on a stripped-down, acoustic, folk approach and the songs of others to find success. In her place is a woman who has evolved into one of not just the UK’s but indie music’s must-hear singer-songwriters.
Run is a majestic and crushing album, and never has a four-track EP felt like a full-fledged long-player. It’s a record that sees Shaddad bear her soul, sharing the whirlwind of emotions that comes with love and heartbreak and trying to make sense of the complicated world around us. But it isn’t a one-note album by any means, but it feels like a concept album with each song seemingly building on the previous themes and emotions. Musically, Run is more expansive than anything Shaddad has created, and it breathes of the intimate, cathartic indie rock of Sharon Van Etten, TORRES, and Angel Olsen.
The spectacular “Wars” opens the album. The slow-building track perfectly complements Shaddad’s story about conflict and loyalty all around us. “Who are you fighting for?”, she repeatedly asks and follows that with, “Who wins these wars?” There aren’t any answers to the questions; Shaddad instead leaves us to contemplate how we should contemplate as the percussion and guitars collide in the background during the song’s cataclysmic finish.
The title track, “Run”, is the highlight of the album. It demonstrates the evolution of Shaddad as a singer-songwriter. The song is brilliantly paced, commencing with almost a whisper as the instruments and Shaddad’s voice slowly intensify. Lyrically, “Run” is terrific, feeling like a continuation of “Wars”. The track is an emotional juggernaut with the multiple waves of intensity and Shaddad’s stirring voice calling out to a person, imploring them to escape the battlefield.
Go now before you lose everything
Go now before you do
Run from me as far as fast as you can
I am warning you.
Things slow down for the EP’s final two tracks. “Always” is a song about memory, remembering someone that Shaddad has lost. A lover, a friend, a parent, a sibling? We’ll never know. While the song might have the most straightforward lyrics of the entire EP, Shaddad’s message is powerful and poignant.
Ever I think of you
Even as I try not to
Even if I fall into someone new.
“Make It Go Away” closes the album. It’s the most stripped-down song where Shaddad’s voice is the star. It’s the one track where the Hope Sandoval comparisons can be clearly heard, and, therefore, “Make It Go Away” is the most heart-crushing song on the entire album. The song is one of regret, remorse, and seeking forgiveness, and we can feel the pain and sadness in every word Shaddad utters.
It isn’t easy. It isn’t easy
And I can’t make it go away
I never did deserve you
When Run comes to a close, you won’t be running away from it but going back to it over and over again. Run is truly a memorable album. It is powerful and earnest. It is breathtakingly spectacular and quietly contemplative. It is the hallmark of an artist who has found her sound and her creative soul. Eliza Shaddad has arrived.
Featured photo by Melanie Tjoeng.
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