There were less than 18 months between the release of Maja Lena’s debut and Pluto, her sophomore record. But, in that time, there’s been a lot of growth. While opening track ‘Daylight Comes Revealing’ feels like it could have been lifted from the first album, the evolution in sound becomes clear as soon as the drums kick in on second song ‘No More Flowers’. The instrumentation on this song takes us out of the ethereal folk realm we might have been expecting and into something more fuller and fleshed out. Maja’s captivating vocals are still the focal point, the centre of everything, but there is a wider soundscape around them that promises something exciting for the rest of the record as a whole.
And this definitely proves to be the case. A song like ‘The Stone’ adds further layers to Maja’s sound, adding a rocky guitar to percussion that sounds almost tribal. ‘Clear As The Water’ uses a mix of vocal layering and a chaotic drumbeat to create a truly hypnotic effect which fuses well with the chorus of ‘touched by the moon/touched by the stars/touched by the sun.’ And towards the end of the record we have ‘Portal’, a song that occasionally threatens to become dance music, pulsing musicianship under a vocal line that never lets up.
The thing that really makes Pluto a success, though, is the way that Maja mixes these new rhythms and melodies with the sound she established on her debut. Her music is dreamy and folk-inspired, with elements that make it feel almost new age. Songs like ‘The Curtain’ and ‘Silent Quilt’ very much keep us in that world here. And while ‘No More Flowers’ is the standout song that marks the shift on Pluto, the gorgeous ‘Through The Wall’ is the other absolute highlight – and that one is a song which demonstrates exactly what always made Maja unique and interesting.
And Maja’s performance is the still the thing that makes her music so great – the mix of delicacy and power in her voice is fantastic. It is great to see her push forward as she makes the step from album one to two and, when you think of how quickly she has made this progression, it bodes well for a career of intriguing music which keeps developing. She doesn’t have a big following at this point; many of you won’t have even heard her name, I imagine. But if you like a stunning voice, some beautiful guitar work, and original and unique arrangements, then you should give her a go for sure.
Words by Fran Slater