It’s been three years since Aleksandra Denton, aka Shura, released her debut album, Nothing’s Real. It was one of the best albums of that year, full of lovelorn alt-pop songs that, in the case of tracks like Touch and What’s It Gonna Be, already sounded like modern classics.
Forevher is the follow-up, and as good as Nothing’s Real was, its successor feels like a huge step forward. Most of the songs gathered on Forevher are about Denton’s long-distance relationship with her girlfriend (who lives in New York), and you can almost feel the yearning and lust boiling over in each track.
While Forevher doesn’t sound wildly different to Shura’s debut, there’s definitely a tonal shift in her sound. Many of the tracks have a welcome RnB and soul influence to them, while Denton’s confidence as a artist seems to have shot through the roof. The Stage (written about Denton’s first date with her girlfriend at a Muna gig) has an irresistible strut to it, with a barely concealed carnality that Prince would be proud of (“we don’t wanna dance, we just wanna…oh” runs one key line).
In another nod to Prince, standout track Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me) mixes religion and sex to startling effect, with Denton lasciviously crooning “I wanna consecrate your body, turn the water to wine”, while BKLYNLDN (or Brooklyn London for those unfamiliar with text-speak) opens with “I could pretend I’m Jesus, that I’m going to heal your body” over a languid groove before tackling all the insecurities that come with a long-distance relationship – “can’t stop looking at my telephone, want you to call me but you never call”.
It’s those insecurities and anxieties that make Forevher stand up to repeated listens – Flyin’ is about the dilemma of being afraid of air travel when that’s the only way to see your loved one, while Princess Leia remembers the death of Carrie Fisher, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the sort of transatlantic flight that Denton has had to make over the last few years (“maybe I died when Carrie Fisher died”).
The overall sound of Forevher is that of laid-back funk, but there are some odd little moments where Shura start to experiment that are just as satisfying: Tommy has a long spoken word introduction from a old man telling a story about reuniting with his high school sweetheart after his wife had died, before settling into a ghostly piano ballad.
It’s the sort of album that feels like some real love and care has been lavished upon it – from the startling cover art of two women sharing a kiss in the pose of Rodin’s The Kiss, bathed in blue, to the production. Joel Potts, who returns on co-production duties, gets to show off a new side to his skills, bathing each song in a gorgeously soulful glow, not unlike Frank Ocean‘s more recent work.
Forevher may not have the instant pop hooks that Nothing’s Real boasted, but it feels like a more satisfying whole. There’s an old adage that from great pain comes great art, but with this album Shura’s proved it wrong. Forevher is the sound of a woman happy, in love, and going from strength to strength as a songwriter.