Snoh Aalegra’s sophomore release, ‘Ugh, those feels again’, probes further into the forward-facing synthetic soul of her 2017 debut ‘FEELS’, better expounding her emotional psyche post-relationship. The heady high and fragrant evocations of love in full bloom are tempered by a charged melancholy, with interdependency, isolation and self-worth coming into play as a breakup looms. On ‘Ugh…’ Snoh humanises her feelings, her experiences and ingratiates the listener to her brand of heartbreak soul, hence the album title.
Aalegra and long-time collaborator No I.D. - at the helm as executive producer and label head - keep the beats bare and distilled, an augmentation of Snoh’s virtuosic, versatile voice. Yearning has never sounded more heartrending and Aalegra knows which strings to tug at.
From the one-two guttural punch of the intro ‘Here Now’ seamlessly transitioning into the velvet majesty of ‘I Want You Around’, the strength of this set is that succeeds in meticulously threading together doo wop, nu jazz, neo soul and gauzy R&B, all the while foregrounding the delicate contours of Snoh’s incredible voice. Sparse, low-slung number ‘You’ - where Snoh can best express and emote her angst through a lattice of galactic chords and strings - encapsulates the overarching soundscape of the record, threaded together by UK’s Joel Compass.
‘Ugh, those feels again’ isn’t a maudlin affair, however. ‘Toronto’, the strongest track on offer, reins in the heartfelt elicitations, instead ramping up the sexual tension as Aalegra vocally climbs the octaves to mirror her climax, on the brink of overflowing. ‘Nothing to Me’ is a much-needed placeholder for Snoh’s feistier side, where internal affirmations come by a confrontational takedown of an ambivalent ex, a snarling Snoh listing all the areas he came up short. It’s a Snoh we need more of.
What’s most admirable about ‘Ugh, those feels again’ is that Aalegra isn’t seeking dominion over the charts. Creative self-sufficiency and artistic integrity, instilled in her by her mentor, Prince, has meant she’s eschewed big label money and payola deals. Her output speaks for itself; authenticity is her calling card. With adistinct indie sheen, Aalegra navigates her way out of starry-eyed amorousness into self-cultivated autonomy, where a sense of permanency has to come from within.
Album closer, ‘Peace’, embodies the appeal and evolution of Snoh Aalegra - a bridge between the referential sounds of monolithic icons with the corporeal face of contemporary R&B. She’s past and future, concurrently. With that in mind, the Swedish-Iranian singer may have released one of the definitive breakup records of the year.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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