“Everything you love kills you.”
That’s how Denai Moore sets us up for her debut LP, Elsewhere. On opener Piano Song, it’s clear where this Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, How To Dress Well) production is heading: this ain’t your fluffy new singer-songwriter type of soul. Denai Moore has something rather heavy and personal to exhale.
A quick glance at the album sleeve will reinforce that. Song titles primarily come as singular, loaded words: Absent, Detonate, Flaws, or the standout track Blame (one of two tracks produced by Plan B). “Blame it on love, what else could it be/ causing all this misery?” sings Moore, hushed and confessional before her resolve cascades with a beautiful, piano-driven chorus.
It’s a standout moment for Moore. Not only does it resonate more than the work of other 22 year-old debutantes, it’s also a huge advertisement for taking one’s time over the craft – even though Moore first generated buzz over two years ago, the patience and insistence in finding a rather honest sound is clear in this final product. It’s what makes a line like “I swore at my mother for the first time” all the more startling on I Swore, or the gentle vocal backing on Feeling so powerful.
Elsewhere is one of those records that feels like its title: as the record unfolds, we’re not present. We’re somewhere spacious, the mindscape of Denai Moore, with these songs slowly breathing around us as we take a tour through a life (even on the abrupt change of tack on the wholly guitar-picked Never Gone), reaching a denouement of magnitude on Let Me Go and Last Time. By the end of it, we’re very much under the skin of Moore’s personality and experiences, and the immediacy of rushing back to go through it all again, to pick out new layers and words, means only thing: Elsewhere is nowhere else but right here.