Tirzah: Devotion (Domino)

Produced by Mica Levi, London-based artist Tirzah's impressive debut LP is a platter of experimental pop

Released Aug 10th, 2018 via Domino / By Emilie Kneifel
Tirzah: Devotion (Domino) First, an anxious build. Hesitant tremor. Then totally unabashed hope, an aurora borealis tripping over itself. Lips parting, then —Tirzah’s voice, promising to "make you fiiine again," her fine long enough to lie on. Her voice tiptoes, breathy, on the bridge: "This is so pure, this is rare/ I just want you to know that I'm here for you." Her soft staccato hopping. Though her Devotion is directed towards another person, the intimacy of Tirzah’s sound gives one the sense that she’s alone — practicing her lines before a conversation or rewording reactions in hindsight. Her words’ recipient absent, she divulges. Uninhibited.

Her lyrics flip and toss entirely with the tug-of-war of long-term love: the estrangement, the frictioned return. The festering. The attempt to preserve something, anything, in a joint life: "how I was before" or "what you do to me." Still, she reassures her husband: "Don’t be lonely/ Don’t be scared" even when "you couldn’t make this thing right." It’ll work itself out. That’s how this goes. Ultimately, they’ve made a promise — "I’ll come to you with all my heart/ I will make it hard for you to see" — of blinding forever. "Gladly, gladly, gladly."

The best part of the album is the life of its sound. Some songs stutter and chatter like aliens are crawling under the songs’ skin. Others screech with electric guitars (Devotion) or ripple with ruminating piano loops (Affection). But the truest shimmer is Tirzah’s R&B-esque melisma: how she flutters and warps words into pure lilt, making her written lyrics look cut short. What can’t be read in a review is how her singing skims and skits up and around. How single syllables can last for whole breaths, rising and rising and dipping like a hand swooping with the wind out an open car window.

Hiding away somewhere, Tirzah croons, feeling out her limits. Graceful in her stammering and stumbling. In her unleashing. "This feeling’s controlling me/ I can’t shut it down." She repeats some lines so many times, it’s as though she’s on autopilot, so stuck in her head that she forgets to articulate aloud. She echoes to herself: "Do you know?/ Do you know?/ Do you know?" But she never feels in flux. There is something steady. She knows where she stands. 7/10