For the most part, pop music is a vast landscape of cheap thrills so bland they become passé before they’re even finished. However, every now and then we get glimpses at new artists that either create a fresh sounding or something that sticks with us. In the case of Nadia Reid’s Preservation, both are accomplished gracefully.
The New Zealand songwriter’s second full length is the unpretentious singer/songwriter record listeners need right now. From the opening song, we feel like we’re hearing Reid perform the ten tracks in her home and we’re just flies on the wall. There’s a warm tone to her electric guitar-driven sound that reminiscent of our talented friend who spends their weekends playing guitar on the couch.
The second track on Preservation, The Arrow and the Aim, is most likely going to be the big single off this album, but I’ve been wrong before so we’ll see. Being the fullest sounding and the track with the simplest lyrics, it appears as though this is what Reid is ‘aiming’ for (no pun intended). “Remember the heart, the one that beats beneath you, you were the love that brought me closer to heaven” she sings. Lyrics dealing with memory are fairly common on the album, perhaps this is where the album title gets its name from.
The choice track on Preservation is the third, titled Richard. Possibly the most revealing track on the album, Reid sings about a past love who was impressed with himself, whether it’s fictional or not is unclear. The driving guitar loops through four chords underneath Reid’s voice that comes across more haunting than other songs on the album.
One of the big reasons why Reid’s Preservation is a success is the instrumentation. The simple arrangements of guitars, basses, drums, and minimal keyboards make the album tangible. One of the biggest problems with pop music right now is that the majority of what’s coming out doesn’t sound like music made by humans. This is because most non-musician people working in the music industry aren’t human but that’s an argument for a different article. There isn’t enough genuine sentiment behind singles anymore, most of them feel like products and not enough like artistic expressions. Reid creates an atmosphere that invites listeners in rather than flashes fun pictures in front of them and keeps its distance. This is truly what success sounds like in popular music. There’s a personality to her sound but it can unabashedly be deep and revealing at times about her own self on songs like Ain’t Got You or Reach My Destination. On the tracks with full bands playing on them there is clearly communication between the musicians playing even if they’re doing separate tracking. It at least sounds like musicians that have worked together to come up with something.
2017 is clearly going to be a paradigm shift year for popular music. With Sampha’s Process (which we also reviewed) setting the stage, Nadia Reid follows in his footsteps while creating her own path. Maybe this will be the year for revealing songwriters; a step back into a style popularized by Neil Young and Joni Mitchell with an updated sound. Or maybe it’s the year organic instrumentation will find its way back to the forefront like back in 2005, the last good year for pop rock. Or maybe we just need fresh voices on the radio we haven’t heard a thousand times. Either way, Nadia Reid’s Preservation is an excellent addition to this year’s stack of releases and is a high recommendation from the staff at Hell of a Thing.
Click here to hear Richard.
– By Mike Metcalf