Tirzah’s ‘Devotion’ Is Fractured R&B For The Damaged Heart

Editorial Director, Music

Clare Shilland

The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.

First, a smattering of tiny lines snake across the pane, then the whole thing goes. Shattered glass is like an instrument before it’s disaster. The damage is from the pressure, the power of the impact. But the breakage, that’s all freefall — hairline fractures, tiny hurts, small moments of pain. Taken together, they read as damage. Damage, always something undesirable. But sometimes damage is part of the desire, they’re interlocked, sullen and sultry, bitter with the sweet. Damage and desire are the cornerstone of London singer Tirzah’s full-length record, Devotion, that was quietly released on Domino records last week but could well be one of the sleeper hits of this year.

Before 2018, the most anyone knew about Tirzah (Mastin) was that they wanted more. “It’s just a shame the thing’s so short,” goes the final line of a Resident Advisor review of her second, brief 2014 EP, No Romance, the follow-up to her impossibly short 2013 debut, I’m Not Dancing. These two sketches, along with a couple other two or three track offerings composed the London singer’s entire oeuvre, all released on Greco-Roman, the electronic-focused label run by Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, but all just a taste of what she could do. Each EP seemed to be wending toward something larger, looming in the distance.

Last week, that finally came into focus on Devotion, a slurry meditation on love and loneliness, as moody as wallpaper in Twin Peaks, a serene document stippled with mournful synths and sultry, bittersweet melodies. Tirzah’s raw, confessional lyrics cook in their anger and disappointment, while production from her longtime partner Mica Levi (see the scores for Jackie, Under The Skin) splits the difference between old world R&B and cutting-edge electronic beats with a kind of hushed elegance. The pair have worked together for over 17 years after meeting at the Purcell School for Young Musicians, and their internal synchronization beats throughout the record like a pulse.

Mostly, Tirzah’s focus lyrically is on the fractured relationship(s) that drift in and out of her heart, fluctuating from extreme commitment to the moody aftermath of the recently bereft. On tracks like the easy standout “Do You Know,” fairy-wing keyboard riffs mix with metallic, mechanical percussion — both courtesy of Levi, and illustrating her range — to evoke the whiplash of a heart in the throes of love, lust and abandonment.

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