Nadia Reid stepped out of her native New Zealand for the making of her third studio album, recorded at Spacebomb studios, Richmond, Virginia.
Produced and arranged by Spacebomb Record’s in-house Trey Pollard (credits include Matthew E.White & Natalie Prass), this is her most polished album so far, with a varied backdrop of instrumentation. The arrangements are subtle enough not to overpower the songs, if a little safe.
There is something a little too ‘in-house’ about the production that doesn’t sit right with me. The results are beautiful – Pollard sure knows how to arrange a horn section, which I am a chump for. However, the textbook percussion and built up choruses in the more radio friendly tracks such as ‘Best Thing’ feel a bit production-by-numbers, and I’m left wondering if he truly understood Reid, or if he just set out to make another pleasant Americana album.
The album’s opening track ‘All of My Love’ hits you with Nadia Reid’s raw talent as a songwriter and vocalist. Structurally, I love how the melody goes for a wander from the first line, with barely a hint of repetition of phrasing or motifs until end of the chorus, 2 minutes in. Vocally she is flawless – an expert at ornamentally navigating the scales – and her expressiveness seems to carry the weight of someone much older than her 28 years. She has this knack of drawing you in and winning your empathy before you even have paid any attention to the lyrics.
Lyrically, there are themes of travel, resigned loneliness and soul searching running throughout the album. There is a sense of her fulfilling that familiar itch of wanderlust, in an attempt to get away from herself, only to find that the only thing she brought along was herself. Being several weeks deep in a pandemic lockdown at the time of writing this review, it makes for an apt album to indulge in, in addition to several kilos of Galaxy Minstrels.
With such tales of melancholic reflections and longings, I can’t help but compare her lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s. The new perspectives that passing time has given in ‘The Other Side of the Wheel’ echoes Mitchell’s ‘Clouds’. It is also probably no coincidence that Reid’s song ‘Oh Canada’ is also a line in Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’.
The album’s string-accompanied final track is perhaps the most stunning and devastating, opening with the lines “I’ve got to get the devil out of me, I’m searching for that permanence so I can breathe again” which, ironically, did leave me a little short of breath.
Like many artists with albums released this spring, Reid’s album tour plans were thwarted by COVID-19, with most European dates now rescheduled for September. I thoroughly look forward to catching a UK show, partially on the strength of her 2016 album ‘Preservation’, partially because she is that sweet spot of having developed and matured her talent but still being a small enough artist to see in an intimate venue, for the price of a couple of pints.
Words by Quincey Brown