Eliza Shaddad is constantly moving. She’s the restless sort in that she’s always looking for ways to challenge and better herself. She has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy and is a multi-linguist. For most people, that would be a career, but the London-based singer-songwriter wasn’t going to live a life within the academia. She instead enrolled at London’s Guildhall to study jazz, and shortly thereafter she released her debut EP, January ~ March. She followed that up with two more extended players, including the majestic and crushing Run, which was one of our favorite EPs of 2016. Two years later, she finally shared her debut album, Future, which was a widescreen, cinematic marvel. In between her professional life and her solo music career, she worked on another project called Sandscape.
After years of running, Shaddad has come full circle. Well, sort of. Her newest EP, Sept ~ Dec, is revealed to the entire world. While its title would suggest that the record is a companion to her debut offering, it is the opposite. January ~ March was a folk-oriented compilation, akin to the cool wintry days that eventually give way to the peace of spring. On Sept ~ Dec, it is the storms of autumn and the fading of the landscape’s colors. Like the first brush with Old Man Winter’s icy breath, the record chills to the bones and opens one’s eyes to the realization a new day has come.
At just three tracks, the EP showcases the two main attributes that has made Shaddad a favourite within UK indie circles. Her songwriting is the star, as she often crafts poignant stories that are brittle yet beautiful, stark but illuminating. She supports her storytelling with soundscapes that often take on the characteristic of an engrossing film. The opener, “One Last Embrace”, reveals the power of Shaddad’s artistry. It opens with a dark, brooding rhythm section before Shaddad’s voice parts the clouds and flashes her trademark, bone-jarring lyrics. As the fuzzed-out guitar intensifies, she shares a story of control and oppression.
“But yeah I can feel it coming closer
Like some tidal wave that wants to pull us under,
Can you hear it growing stronger yeah that roar of liquid thunder,
How it threatens us with what we crave,
One last embrace.”
Calm, though, is on the horizon with “Same As You”. Reminiscent of the bedroom indie-rock of the ’90s (think Liz Phair), intimacy is immediately created with Shaddad’s shallow, crystalline guitar. The song is a rarity in Shaddad’s discography, as it is largely introspective with the artist opening herself to the world. She states with little emotion that “nothing you can say or do will penetrate my heart”, and later proclaims “I like pain as much as I like being happy”. Her statements as well as her delivery are indications of the strength she possesses. The strength of a woman who will not be taken down.
The stunning, “Girls”, closes the EP. Methodically paced and never going overboard, the song is shrouded in memory. Specifically, Shaddad recalls a time of innocence, friendship, and listening to “Tracy Chapman on repeat”. Her friend, however, is hiding a secret, and the song slowly focuses on the pain the two are experiencing – one directly and the other for not being able to help. She begs her friend to “let yourself be found / Darling let your walls come down”, but her words fall on deaf ears. Shaddad’s music and lyrics on Sept ~ Dec, however, will resonate for a long time. It is a record that leaves a permanent mark on the ears and within our souls.
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