Denai Moore – We Used to Bloom review

It takes courage to express feel­ings of anx­i­ety – espe­cial­ly when they involve those clos­est to you. Denai Moore grace­ful­ly puts these feel­ings into words and sounds. Return­ing with her sec­ond stu­dio album, rich in lucid imag­i­na­tion and touch­ing moments, this 23-year-old musi­cian has assert­ed her­self as an artist who will absolute­ly go her own way.

On her sub­lime debut, Else­where, Moore, who was born in Jamaican and raised in Lon­don, proved her­self to be a high­ly capa­ble artist in the truest sense of the word: she wrote songs, played the gui­tar and piano, did her own back­ing vocals, and sang heart-ren­der­ing vers­es (‘Blame’) with a sin­cer­i­ty that could leave a crowd stone-silent.

We Used to Bloom con­tin­ues Moore’s auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal song­writ­ing, and her desire to exper­i­ment by merg­ing yet more strange elec­tron­ic loops with her acoustic melodies. The cor­ner­stone of the album is Moore’s ele­gant, cof­fee-cream voice and the emo­tions she shares about anx­i­ety, fam­i­ly and growth. “Told myself I was nev­er worth hav­ing,” she sings on open­ing track ‘Let It Hap­pen’. She pon­ders com­plex feel­ings, such as this, through­out. ‘Twi­light’, an Elliott Smith cov­er, and ‘Bring You Shame’, both formed by allur­ing gui­tar rhythms, record­ed as if heard echo­ing down an emp­ty cor­ri­dor, see Moore untan­gling her­self from the advances of an admir­er (“I’m already someone’s baby”), and strug­gling with the idea that “it’s eas­i­er to be hard on myself”. Between the steady rep­e­ti­tions of melodies and the poet­ic deliv­ery of her phras­es, Moore puts a spell on you with her songs.

The blend­ing of brass instru­ments, gospel and unusu­al sounds are part of this spell. And the lat­ter are every­where: bicy­cle bells and split-sec­ond vroom cries (‘Do They Care?’), fin­ger clicks and work­top taps (‘Let It Hap­pen’), and brood­ing, hyp­not­ic, steel-grey crunch­es (‘Leave It Up to You’) akin to Lit­tle Drag­on’s ‘Killing Me’. Not all of them will be appar­ent imme­di­ate­ly, but pro­duc­er Steph Marziano has done a fine job of lay­er­ing these songs in way that rewards repeat­ed lis­tens. And when the sur­re­al, gid­dy whirr of stand­out track ‘Does It Get Eas­i­er?’ tru­ly gets under your skin, you’ll feel it. You’ll feel the pull of Moore words as she pon­ders lone­li­ness, love and self-worth (‘Poor Per­son’). You’ll feel the splen­dour of Moore’s hope­ful clos­ing duet with her fel­low soul broth­er Kwabs. And you might just feel more lev­el-head­ed, too.

In the run up to the release of We Used to Bloom, Moore said she sees her­self as a “genre-free” musi­cian, like her inspi­ra­tions, Bon Iver and Feist. For those dis­cov­er­ing Moore for the first time, or want­i­ng more after hear­ing her appear­ance with SBTRKT, this is a new phase for the musi­cian. Its exper­i­men­tal nature will be too bold for some, but this is music with feel­ing, ground­ed by deeply emo­tive vocals. Those who return reg­u­lar­ly to let Moore’s album grad­u­al­ly unfold, like the petals of a flower, will drink in its colour, its mean­ing and its unique beauty.


We Used to Bloom will be released June 16, 2017, on Because Music. You can pur­chase the album here.

If you like this artist, check out: Lianne La Havas; Char­lene Soraia

Image: In Bloom