Natasha England – Somehow – Album Sampler/Singles Review
While I like to believe that this page consistently features many of the future superstars of tomorrow – it’s not all that often that an already verified international chart-topping artist ends up here. A huge welcome to Natasha England, whose credentials precede her – but in the off-chance you haven’t heard that name by now, she’s been in the industry since the 70’s as an artist, manager, producer…she’s also responsible for the massive 80’s hit “Iko Iko” with her cover of the James ‘Sugar Boy’ Crawford song. To prove to yourself just how huge that song really was if you can’t recall it by title – go plug that into YouTube or find the song online and I guarantee by the time you get to the hooks you’ll certainly remember it & just how many times throughout your life that you’ve likely heard it playing somewhere.
No elephant in the room here – the 80’s were of course, some time ago now. In the world according to wiki – Natasha ended up leaving the music biz for quite a while, even moving all the way over here to Canada from where she was in the UK to work with horses before eventually moving back. Then came the anthologies and the best-ofs…and from an outsider’s perspective, that can seem like the turning point where an artist has called it a day & ready to rest on their past accomplishments – it probably seemed like Natasha was a talent set adrift in the wind, perhaps never to come back to music at all.
Thankfully…it was that push in 2007 in releasing her full catalog of tunes digitally for the first time that brought her back to us. She’d go on to release the album Deeper Into Reality with producer Logan in 2010 and put out a handful of singles afterwards over the years to follow…and here we are. You’re all caught up…sort of…she’s probably got an entire lifetime’s worth of awesome music-history inside her and of course I can’t lay it all out here in one review – but the most important thing to note in any of these details, is really the fact that there is indeed, more to her story after all. Time has treated Natasha extremely well in my opinion. I can’t profess to know all of the tunes she’s put out in the past – but I can certainly tell you what’s relevant for right now, what sounds great to listen to, and when an artist has clearly embraced a refreshed attitude towards music – you can hear how absolutely inspired England is throughout her new album Somehow…to the point where I’d imagine many listeners & fans out there might consider this to be the best music she’s made so far. I’ll say this for myself – I’ve listened to the entire record and there’s not a single bad song on it or even a rough moment – Natasha England has made a beautiful album full of emotion, bold vocals, and gorgeous melodies…a range of material that’s stunningly expressive and all the proof your ears should need to know that she is far, far from done yet.
Like…good lord…LISTEN to the back-to-back combination of how awesome “Bad Breaks And Heartaches” & “The Brightest Light” are together! That’s a serious highlight spot on the new album – and I’m not even reviewing those particular cuts in this article…you just gotta hear’em; two totally different vibes and such stunning execution that you can’t help but listen. And then like…from there it flows into the incredible electro-infused groove of “2 Of A Kind?” Don’t even get me started people – I’m here to discuss four particular songs from the record…if we start getting into all the amazing moves Natasha’s making on Somehow, I promise ya, we’ll all be here ‘til next week reading my thoughts. Ohhhh but those Jazzy, smoky-lounge sound & awesome bass-lines & instrumentation on “I’ll Never Let You Down” – I’ve gotta mention that too…because it’s amazing as well…theatrical, brilliantly constructed, poetic, artistic…genius really. Okay, okay, okay…I’ll quit teasing you – LISTEN to this record!
So let’s do this! Here’s what I’ve got in front of me…the opening/title-track “Somehow,” the second cut “Such A Shame,” a track from the mid-section called “Me To God” and the final cut “Hook Line And Sinker” – that should give us a good sample from this album and give you a sense of what it’s all about. I mentioned this is all killer no filler already though right? What’s that you say? Just last paragraph? Right, right…just wanted to make sure that was covered. I mean, c’mon – “One More Chance” is such an amazing song full of soul & emotion…gorgeous sax & piano…and vocals that remind you tenderly & sweetly just how fantastic it really is to hear Natasha so inspired at this stage in her career. She might just want to brace herself and be ready for a whole new chapter as far as I’m concerned…Somehow is stuffed full of flawless material that reveals so much of the heart & passion in the art of songwriting.
But alright…I’ll assume you’ve gotten the point in what I’m saying – this album is seriously breathtaking. I’ll finally get to what I’m supposed to be talking about now.
What sounds like it’s about to be riotously epic quickly reveals a much more chill & sleek song to follow, “Somehow” is fantastically unique and atmospheric right from the moment it kicks-in. Listen to the composition and musicianship at work here…”Somehow” is both perfectly spacious and remarkably full at the same time, allowing your ears to absorb all of the truly magnificent pieces that combine to create this opening tune on Natasha’s new album. The percussive elements of this song standout just as brilliantly as the stunning accenting guitar notes do…and ALMOST as much as the main star herself. Almost. Not quite. I don’t honestly think anything could take your ears off of Natasha’s amazing voice – and lyrically, I think this track reveals an incredible honesty that you just won’t find every day. The way she sings ‘it’s up to me to change it somehow’ in reference to her life is like a haunting theme-statement that will steer the course of this entire record – because it WAS up to her to keep making music & creating art – it’s always up to all of us as individuals, ain’t it? That being said – you can have the most amazing team of support around you, and if you’re not feeling it yourself, if you can’t find that motivation – it’s all for naught. “Somehow” is like a ventilation of all these emotions…a personal revelation in music that we get to witness, entwined in her own tale of life, love, and music…it’s an insightful song to start an album with and immediately shows that Natasha is facing her future head-on.
LOVE the music-box-like sound of “Such A Shame” as it begins. Now…I don’t want to assume too much here…but I’ve also been reading quite a bit about Natasha over this past several days…and if I was to hazard a guess or make an assumption here – there’s a solid chance that “Such A Shame” reveals some seriously in-depth feelings & emotions in an objective look at her past from where she is now today. To me, it certainly sounds incredibly personal…Natasha’s attached bold expression to her voice…in my opinion, she’s easily right up there with the best of the best like a Lennox, Smith, or Bush…& I think it’s songs like “Such A Shame” that bring that real strength in her connection to music straight to the surface. It’s a bolder choice to send out in a sample set…especially when you consider that this song leads straight into the universally accessible sound of “Lost In You” on the official album, which like…EVERY single person in the world would like and give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to. “Such A Shame” reaches deeper perhaps, reveals more of the catharsis that this record provides to England…& really speaks to the fact that she’s clearly unafraid to put her thoughts & feelings out there front & center for all to hear on this album. “Such A Shame” is a sample of how far she’s willing to go to bring out what’s really on her mind and in her heart…ultimately, the kind of writing that will last & hold-up over time. It’s heartbreaking, it’s real, it’s audible proof that life & love don’t always go as we plan, hope, or expect it all to – and again, she’s putting all this out there with full-confidence & no fear. If you dig something like Massive Attack or Portishead – a track like “Such A Shame” will certainly hit the mark for ya – fantastic textures in the music of this song and an inspired, artistic, & clever vocal performance.
In a prayer-like theme, Natasha shows the true brilliance of focus in songwriting once again on “Me To God.” In terms of the art, this is exactly what it’s all about. The verses of “Me To God” sound nearly hymn-like in their composition…even the gentleness of the chorus speaks to that in its own sweet way – she’s created an insightfully powerful moment there too. She’s earnest, humble, loving…and genuinely seeking answers to what’s she’s experienced in life so far and guidance for how to move forward. I think the amount of personal details and emotions that Natasha has put into this album both lyrically and through the way she sings her words has been nothing short of astounding, truly. It’s not every day that you’ll find an artist so willing to give this much of themselves and be as vulnerable as Natasha has been throughout this record…and yet…just by the fact that she’s DOING this and has made this album, gives everything in the music, songs, and atmosphere an incredibly empowered feeling hanging in the air. Smart blend of soft orchestral & classical influences in the music and the added space in the music really allow England’s vocals to mesmerize with the captivating melodies she’s created and the heartfelt approach that she sings her words with. I think a lot of people out there will latch onto the sweet innocence that this song has in the intimate & up-close feeling this entire song provides. As far as the bridge goes…maybe it works, maybe not…I’m not even quite sure of it myself…but I do like that it opens up the potential for the final chorus run-throughs to contain an additional majesty in their sound. Stripping it all back to just her stunning voice to end “Me To God” was another excellent idea; overall it’s not a song that’s gonna punch you in the face to get your attention by any stretch…but it will earn it through a series of stellar ideas, parts in the writing, and moments in the performance without a doubt.
Skipping ahead now to the very end – C’MON people – how awesome is the final cut “Hook Line And Sinker?” The eastern-influence on this track sounds incredible, the beat is freakin’ magnificent, and the main star of the show is completely owning the spotlight so confidently and in control that it should remind the new generation of singers out there that they’re just trying to catch a ride to stardom – Natasha’s been riding for years and it’s performances like this that reveal the heart of this lioness is still beating stronger than ever. I’d probably challenge that “Hook Line And Sinker” goes for a lot more modern-day glitz & gloss than many of the other songs on Somehow – but it’s certainly a style that works for England just as effectively. She’s in a framework you’d more likely assume to find Lady Gaga within on this final song – it’s sexy, it’s upbeat, it’s vibrant, it’s fresh – it’s the kind of song that’s a perfect fit right at the end of a record, almost another statement in itself, as if to say Natasha will be back again in the future to follow and you’ll never know what she’ll come up with next. But you’ll know without question, that she’ll bring quality, commitment, focus, and heart to every moment – especially if she can pull it all off as convincingly as she is on “Hook Line And Sinker” here at the end of the album; a song as flashy as this almost shouldn’t connect…but like every move she’s made along the way throughout the course of Somehow, the vibe & atmosphere of this song pulls you in to listen just as close. Almost the opposite effect of “Me To God” really…this final tune pretty much does punch you in the face through the intense mix of ideas, sounds, & energy it has…but that’s what makes it a knockout.
The ultimate hint to understanding this entire record is right there in the title – Somehow. Somehow, Natasha has been through everything she’s been through in life, love, & music, and she’s here with us today. Somehow, she’s transcended time itself and become more relevant than maybe ever before. Somehow, she’s creating the best material she’s ever made – because Somehow, she’s been able to dig deeper into her emotions & thoughts than she ever has and Somehow she’s discovered the true courage it takes to bring the dark into the light. Somehow, she’s found a way not just to carry on, but to lead by example in her boldness to reveal herself for real and Somehow let us experience these powerful feelings like we’re having them ourselves. Somehow – she’s reinvented herself completely anew and risen once more like a phoenix from the ashes – I loved every single second of this record and can’t even express just how inspiring it is to hear Natasha come back with such an immaculate & incredible album.
Find out more about Natasha England at her official homepage: http://www.natashaengland.co.uk
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