‘Painting the air with heartfelt vocal inflections, it’s more like a work of art than an EP.’
Re-intro to Keeva
Initially featured late last year with her beautiful debut track ‘Whiskey,’ and then again when she performed at The Islington back in May, Keeva’s sound has to this point been one of intimate honesty. And thankfully this where it stays. Proving that she hasn’t, and shouldn’t change it one bit, her appropriately titled debut EP ‘Four Sad Songs and a Ballad’ (out 26th October) transports us to a place where tracks are filled with understated, raw and captivating musicality.
Opening with what is the shortest of the tracks on the EP, ‘Pieces’ sets us off on what is to be an emotional 15 minutes. But then I suppose we should have been expecting emotional really. Truth be told, on hearing the combination of simplistic piano accompaniment, strummed electric guitar and delicately reverb-warmed vocal you may feel something’s missing. But it’s not as it perfectly nods to both the atmosphere of her live performances and the truthfulness of her lyricism. And that is kind of the whole point of not just this track but the whole EP.
Sure it does sound slightly different to her previous release, but the essence of what drew me to Keeva’s music in the first place is very much there. The chord changes are at times unexpected, but perfectly reflect the lyrics they sit underneath. The sense of intimacy, even when the texture gently grows in the second half of the track, shines through beautifully. And the innate honesty is plain to hear. In short, it provides an incredibly reflective memoir that sets the tone in the most musical of ways.
Moving from the more exposed nature of the opening track, Track 2 ‘The Kindest Thing’ immediately gives us a greater sense of depth both musically and in terms of message. It feels established. It feels emotionally driven. But most of all, it sees a full return of the smokey atmosphere that Keeva conjures up. Without realising you are completely drawn in and to the extent that you feel you are there with her.
With gently strummed acoustic guitar having set up just the right level of intimacy, the foundations have been laid for Keeva’s initial vocal entry. Bringing with it a reserved warmth, you quickly become captivated by how personally she is speaking to you. However, this is only outdone by the sheer level of personal story-telling which is about to unfold.
Focused on, among other subjects, the betrayal within her own relationship, each lyric tells you of thoughts, feelings and experiences. Again it is like you are there. You too are experiencing them. But the musicality here goes even further due to the most sublime set of musical nods to the lyrics themselves.
Continually pushing your emotional buttons, as the track progresses the use of multi-tracked guitar lines word paint each and every word perfectly. Take the way in which the free-flowing delivery of the line ‘I walk around this town and tell my family’ is set against an increasingly soundscape-esque accompaniment as just one example. If you want another, the binaurally recorded interweaving ‘inner voices’ later in the track should suffice. At its happiest it’s completely heart-wrenching but this is what makes it such an incredible track.
Bringing us a small, but most welcome break from the emotional listen of ‘The Kindest Thing’, the waltz infused momentum of Track 3 ‘How Do I Tell You‘ gives us a slight lift. Maybe this is the ballad? With the soft warmth of Keeva’s vocal delivering lyrics such as ‘even on dark days I’ve got sunlight’ above the sparse, gently uplifting underlying texture, it would certainly seem that way. That said, the sparse nature of the track doesn’t continue throughout.
‘The captivatingly clever lyricism guides you through each track.’
Combining the production of the previous track with the intimacy of the opener, the perfect balance is found. Likewise the more percussive elements within the guitar wonderfully highlight the musical influences at play, as well as reflect the changeable meaning within the lyrics. However, while the developing accompaniment would seem to be heading to a climax, it is completely false.
Instead, rather than the burst of sound that was being hinted at, we get a treat in the form of Keeva’s completely exposed vocal. Stating ‘You were the reason my twenties changed’ you once again feel part of her story and therefore part of the track leaving us only to marvel at the track’s soothing, melisma filled conclusion.
Having just showcased how effective her bluesy mid-pitch vocal can be when completely exposed, the opening of Track 4 ‘Desired Plan’ takes this a stage further. This time, rather than a short sentence, we hear a whole phrase. Verging on magical, Keeva’s silky smooth tone comforts us as she sings ‘Quiet night on a busy street…’ followed by a short, non metred pause before returning with the next section. It’s completely captivating. As is what follows.
Maintaining the waltz feel of earlier but with a slight twist, the track feels more sway inducing than to those to this point. Centring around the same musical influences, you may think the result would be a lack of interest. But this is far from the case. While it uses strummed, picked and muted guitar accompaniments, their combination is such that it feels brand new.
However, this is only a reflection of the understated, effortless musicality that Keeva possesses. To keep things simple, while keeping them as interesting as this takes great skill. The fact is though that with the lyrical inflections, idiomatic harmonies and vowel based additional vocals as they are, it’s a beautifully stylish lead up to the EP’s final few minutes.
While it has been apparent throughout, the initial moments of ‘If I Hadn’t Met You at All’ conjures up Keeva’s setting of choice and transports us from our listening environment to her performing one. Stating the lyrics of ‘You said you’d be here by 9’ above a syncopated strumming pattern, the tone of the track is set allowing us to surmise what the message within is. In truth, it’s pretty clear but its setting takes the musicality to new heights.
Filled with captivatingly clever lyricism, we are guided through the track like never before. There is no doubting the level of honesty here. It’s the kind that can only be from the heart. Each soft vocal break and inflection shouts of life experience. Somehow though, in what could be seen as the EP’s greatest achievement, this also transfers into the surroundings making the emotion pour out of every accompanying note as well.
Delicate in nature the opening sections of the track are such that it could rather happily remain in this way. In fact it would be most enjoyable. However through continually making subtle alterations within both the instrumental and vocal elements, the entire track transforms into the most understated, but most beautiful of conclusions. If there’s one artist you listen to today, make it Keeva.