Miss Universe, the debut record from Londoner Nilüfer Yanya has to be a purposeful title. It perfectly represents the broad collection of sounds careening from rock to hip-hop, to R&B with a touch of ambience that she has assembled.
After turning heads when she uploaded a few songs to SoundCloud, she released three EP’s in rapid succession before finding herself on tours with Interpol, The xx, and Mitski. The album was mostly recorded in a studio owned by Yanya’s uncle, which possibly lends itself to the easy, lived in the vibe of the material.
After a short intro track, “In Your Head” begins with crunchy, compressed guitars. It’s an immediate attention grabber. Yanya approaches the track with punk-like energy. It’s not often you can discern where a singer is from based on their singing voice, but this song feels undeniably British. “Angels” feels like it could be a mid-period Strokes track, while the album starts to take a detour with the drippy “Paradise”. It has an easy groove with gentle electric guitar and Yanya’s laid-back vocal and 80’s schmaltz-sax. It sounds like it would be perfect accompanying an island sunset.
On “Baby Blu”, the album starts to get a little more impressionistic. A song built on simple, climbing synths, it wouldn’t be out of place as a track her aforementioned tour mates The xx. “Heat Rises” sounds a little like Twin Shadow – but later tracks, like the album closer “Heavyweight Champion of the World” takes a building peaking guitar and gorgeous falsetto and makes it sound triumphant.
Miss Universe works as an impressive debut by an artist who can slip in and out of styles relatively effortlessly. Her Sade-like voice fits itself to so many different styles, and that is something for her to grow with. Nilüfer Yanya has confidence with the material she’s created here. Here’s hoping her next release continues this upward trajectory into true transcendence. It already sounds like she’s well on her way.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.