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.

4/5

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