South London’s Andreya Triana has been releasing music for five years, but she’s currently enjoying the career momentum usually only enjoyed by a much-fêted new artist. Sold-out shows at London’s Lexington and Village Underground venues have been followed by an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland.
Triana’s appeal is easy to understand. Like Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse or Cassandra Wilson before her, Triana’s voice strikes just the right balance between technical accomplishment and an ever-so-slight raggedness (though it should be noted that she sounds very little like Simone or Winehouse and only a little like Wilson).
Moreover, Giants – her belated second album following 2010’s Lost Where I Belong – has plenty going for it. The melodies are uniformly strong – deeply conventional in their structure, but yanked slightly left-of-centre by the production’s subtly contemporary touches. Paperwalls has a nifty a capella rhythmic track; Gold is a bluesy stomp in the manner of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep; That’s Alright With Me’s unbridled optimism would find a welcome home on the Radio 2 playlist; while the title track is best of all: a gorgeous ballad featuring Triana’s strongest vocal performance.
Why then, is Giants merely pleasant and listenable rather than moving and exciting? It’s mostly attributable to the songs’ arrangements, which often come across as bloodless. The gospel-inflected Lullaby ought to sound joyful but the musical backing – a minimalist combination of luminescent keyboards and handclaps – makes it feel stiff. The same charge can be made against Keep Running and Clutterbug: the former sounds like a library music version of blues music, while the latter’s robotic-sounding piano backing is a colossal misjudgement.
The sterile quality of much of Giants’ music means that these 12 songs rarely land an emotional body blow. The worst offender is Song For A Friend, a ballad on which Triana’s voice becomes atypically tremulous during the chorus. It’s an odd moment, and one that feels affected rather than genuine.
Triana is undoubtedly a talent and Giants is very far from being a bad record. But it would be nice to hear both Triana and her music lose their inhibitions on her next album.