Eki Shola: Essential (self-released, 2020)

October 11, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Eki Shola: Essential

Eki Shola’s fourth album Essential, the final third of a trilogy that began with 2019’s Possible, is much more vocal-driven than her earlier releases. While continuing with her earlier album’s themes of hope, healing, and comforting, this one has more direct, specific lyrics, drawing from her own life experiences as well as commenting on relevant social issues. The beginning of the album, however, is more of a series of healing exercises, with wordless vocals building in waves over slowly unfolding rhythms for the first two tracks. Subsequent songs are about freedom of thought and expression, with “Shattered Boundaries” giving a reminder that there’s no wrongs when it comes to creativity. “Ignorance Veil” is a huge rush of thoughts regarding global warming, reducing carbon footprints, loving nature but feeling like a hypocrite for contributing to its polluted state, restriction of women’s rights, and other issues which are certainly important to discuss, but can also put a toll on one’s mental health if dwelled on too much without any form of productive release or pause for decompression. “Eco-anxiety” touches on similar themes while also mentioning her desire to have a career breakthrough and make it as a musician. “Gift of Grief” (included in two versions) goes deeper into this autobiographical train of thought, mentioning her Tiny Desk appearance and other highlights that keep her going as an artist. Then “Change the System” more specifically relates to the coronavirus outbreak and our currently changing world, calling for universal health care and stressing the need for all of us to band together and make it happen. “Pause” wraps it all up with a reminder to step back from everything and relax from time to time; don’t overlook the importance of self-care. Musically, the album has some more jazzy, sophisticated, or experimental moments, with touches of drum’n’bass or trap rhythms or dubby effects on some tracks, but it never gets aggressive, and never distracts from the lyrics when they’re present.

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