Farah Elle has described her debut album as a “coming of age record”, “navigating the challenges of adulthood”, a process that takes in her Libyan-Irish identity, and “themes of displacement in the period post-Libyan revolution”. It contains myriad histories: some inherited, some lived and all seeking to be understood.
Elle’s voice evocatively harnesses those histories, in power and intent, leading us through a diverse set of songs that take in such themes as domestic bliss and political strife. The smooth, piano-led Play it by Ear sees Elle explore her impulses; it is, in many ways, a catharsis — “I do this to remove it from my bones” — with Alien veering into wonky indie-pop terrain and Cry Baby embracing (unexpectedly) a touch of vaudeville.
Desert is introspective with pared-back piano, it is an ambitious ode to reconnecting with nature and solitude. Howl folds in an acute sense of various traditions, a ballad that morphs into something quite grand.
The birdsong at the beginning of Laundry heralds a song about domestic comforts, rooting us in a different kind of nature, and there is an eeriness to the melody of Lunar, which complements the muffled, mysterious Rajeen and its funk element that bleeds into the tattered RnB of Sunblock, and the bass-heavy Curfew.
This assured debut sees Elle “unfolding in the songs”, an unfolding that is interesting, reflective and expressive.