Need a bit of upbeat, atmospheric soul-pop to raise the spirits? Look no further than Heart to Heart, the debut EP from South-London based singer-songwriter Mariam.
Crediting her ability to tell stories through songs from her Nigerian heritage, Mariam has been a feature of London’s underground/indie circuit since 2011, entertaining audiences with her voice and her guitar “Pearl”. Although this is Mariam’s debut release, it’s not her first venture into recording. An initial EP was shelved because, as she admits “it just didn’t sound the way I wanted it to”. With Heart to Heart, her perfectionism pays off, delivering a collection of tracks which do justice to her vocal versatility and innate musicality.
Opening with “Be There For Me”, Mariam stakes her claim to the title of “pop princess”. This may be a song of unrequited love, but it’s done through a mild electro approach complemented with punchy percussion, catchy chanting chorus, and a hint of gospel harmonies. She mixes it up into a track that’s sure to have teen girls lip-syncing. Bring on the hand dance!
Interlude “What I Want” provides a masterclass in soul-vocal control. Perfectly pitched against understated electro-tones with a metronomic drum beat, this simple yet assured arrangement suggests that there is more to Mariam than she reveals. Providing a channel for Mariam’s gospel-blues vibe, which was honed through her time with the London Community Gospel Choir, “Without You” explores choices made in life and love. Beautifully produced to showcase Mariam’s vocal dynamic, “Without You” brings classy maturity while maintaining a universal pop appeal.
The simple arrangements that have served Mariam well in live performance feature in “Grow”, allowing her vocals to trip lightly across the surface of her strings. Reminiscent of early Joan Armatrading, and – at just under two and a half minutes – billed as an interlude, listeners are left wanting more. Which is usually a good thing. The EP closes with “Running”, a melodic ballad blending soul with waltz in a sophisticated time-signature that demands a history-bending video. Building from Mariam’s trademark laid back guitar and crystal clear vocals with the addition of tambourine, keys, military drum beats, strings and layered harmonies, there is a cinematic quality to the mid-section which ebbs and flows through to a finale of elegant simplicity.
Released on 4 November at a sold-out headline show, which was dubbed as one of the best unsigned launch nights of 2016, Heart to Heart demands a place in any self-respecting soul-lovers music collection. Grab a download here, or order a CD here.
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