It starts with a piano. Slowly, Niia‘s voice cascades over it, layers of smooth fabric gliding over one another as resplendent harmony. “I fall faster each time,” she sings, but the only descent it feels like is one from heaven.
Truth is, the last time anyone made us feel this way it was Jessie Ware on her debut. I does indeed take a cue from that – with the help of Robin Hannibal – but Niia brings with her a distinctly East Coast soul flavour that his other collaborators like Ware and Yuna didn’t. The breathy stalking of Hurt You First (the most flowery revenge song you ever did hear) establishes a brand of soul that seems at once both familiar and timeless.
And of course, it relates all those emotions for the dead of night. Sideline (repeated at the end with the help of one Jazmine Sullivan) starts off with freestyling over a piano that seems like it’s looking out at a New York skyline, delivering a post-mortem on a relationship that builds a world of warmth around its own reassurance. It’s followed by the breathtaking Nobody, the perfect bridge of soul and pop that hears Niia at her most confident and sensual. In terms of her record, this is the sound of the sun coming up after one unforgettable night.
The rest of it is just as sumptuous. Last Night In Los Feliz is a joy in how unhurried it is, another shade in the palette that takes in an old-school melody while surrounding it with a swirl of strings. There are only rare misfires – Girl Like Me feels almost too slight and too pop – but they matter little in the face of mature, refined wonders like Constantly Dissatisfied and All I Need. This is a late-night writhe of a record, one that takes in both passion, soul, and a good old romp – I is Niia’s declaration of herself, and it is really rather stunning.