Reviews

Nilüfer Yanya “Painless” Album Review

“Painless”, the second album by Nilüfer Yanya, the London songwriter, lingers in feelings of heartbreak, dislocation, and rejection and refuses to let them go. The album is the product of an artist with eclectic tastes spending their time focusing and refining their talent – as if its author has developed the confidence to decide that less is sometimes more.

“Painless” excels at that kind of subtle disclosure, relying less on power than it does texture and immaculately sparing detail. While many of these songs appear to revolve around not knowing where you stand with someone, it’s also a feat to give each one a distinct set of emotional stakes.

What’s remarkable about “Painless” is how she whittles almost everything down—the near-monomaniacal emotional range, the abrupt, broken language, her palette reduced to smoke and ash and nerves—and makes even more of an impact.

Album Cover Artwork

Nilüfer Yanya &Quot;Painless&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, February 23, 2024
Album Cover Artwork For NilÜFer Yanya&Rsquo;S &Ldquo;Painless&Rdquo;.

The cover art is a blend of interesting and bland. There is a cluster of tall buildings in a certain vicinity, some covered with a mixture of select colors, with the album title plastered sideways inside a colored circle. But if we are going to put the album title in perspective, we can begin to connect a few dots on what the artwork has to pass across as its message.

Judging from the ambience of the neighborhood in the artwork, there is a level of decorum and peace, with a great weather to go! Which possibly means that it is such a painless experience existing in a place full of peace. In this case, ‘a place’ is not necessarily a physical location one can migrate to. It could also be the mind, where peace, when found, can keep things Painless.

Tracks

“Painless” contains eleven songs that feel like getting on a rollercoaster while having a hallucinogenic trip. Its opener, “The Dealer” does a lot with almost nothing more than a slackly-strummed electric guitar, a crunchy breakbeat and some ghostly curls of synthesiser. It’s so minimal that when the bass starts playing during the chorus, it feels like a sonic eruption: it’s also a fantastic song.

There’s also the sense of someone peeling layers away in order to concentrate on the kind of subtle details that repay repeat listening: the vocals that shift from speaker to speaker in “L/R”; the brief moment in “shameless” where everything else drops away, leaving only a piano overlaid with drones, and the understated shifts in the backing texture of “belong with you”.

The characters in “stabilise” could be blissfully cocooned – there could be a lascivious smirk about the line “I’m going downstairs, I’ve got the keys, you’re going nowhere” – or they could just be trapped together: “I’m going nowhere until it bleeds.” The singer’s falsetto is deployed more sparingly, and to greater impact, as when it ratchets up the tension on “chase me”.

“Don’t like whenever I’m not in pain/Peeling back, not noticing/The blood and bones beneath my skin,” she sings on “midnight sun,” one of several disquieting lyrics about doing herself harm or inviting whoever hurt her to go ahead and grind her heart underfoot while they’re at it.

Features

The album comes with no features. All eleven tracks are performed solo by Nilüfer Yanya.

Album Theme

There’s no superfluous concept attached. It holds together as it is, rooting its sound in the left-field guitar rock of the late 80s and early 90s without ever feeling obligated to it: a case of someone adapting inspirations to her own ends rather than re-creating.

Production Credits

The composers and major instrumentalists for “Painless” are Nilüfer Yanya, Will Archer, Jazzi Bobbi, and Bullion, while production and vocal engineering were also handled by the latter three names.

Stream

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