Indie artist Nilüfer Yanya was born in Chelsea, West London. She’s the daughter of two visual artists, with Turkish, Irish and Barbadian heritage. Yanya grew up listening to her father’s Turkish music and her mother’s classical, but gravitated to the guitar in adolescence. She rejected the offer to join a girl group formed by Louis Tomlinson, instead electing to forge her own musical path.
Given her diverse background, it’s not surprising her musical aesthetic is distinctive yet varied. Her husky alto is what you’d expect in R&B, while her guitar tone is chunky. It’s Yanya’s ability to find simple yet effective guitar riffs that makes her enjoyable. Both of her albums to date are excellent.
Nilüfer Yanya Album Reviews
Nilüfer Yanya released her eclectic debut album in March 2019, building on several EPs. Yanya’s distinctive, chunky guitar is often at the centre of arrangements, while her husky voice navigates a lot of territory on her debut. She plays angular indie rock like ‘In Your Head’ and ‘Paralysed’. There’s diversity the smooth saxophone on ‘Melt’ gives it a soulful feel, into one impressively coherent whole.
Yanya admitted that the album’s series of narrative tracks about the fictional agency WWAY (We Worry About Your) Health was tacked on at the end of the creation process; they detract from an otherwise impressive debut album. Nevertheless, Yanya’s ability to create a coherent album from diverse elements is impressive, and she’s the most intriguing new artist I’ve heard this year.
Yanya’s first album, Miss Universe, was impressive and eclectic. PAINLESS, her second, doesn’t cover much new ground, but refines and toughens her approach for a stronger record. PAINLESS is more introspective – with the pandemic Yanya spent more time alone, and there’s more self-examination and vulnerability. PAINLESS was recorded in two locations – a basement studio in Stoke Newington and Riverfish Music in Penzance.
As before, it’s Yanya’s knack for catchy guitar parts that’s her key attraction. There are simple but effective guitar hooks – the echoing notes of ‘Anotherlife’ and the arpeggios of ‘Stabilise’. Single ‘Midnight Sun’ gets heavy and cathartic, reminiscent of PJ Harvey. Yanya also embraces her Turkish heritage on ‘L – R’, using her father’s yaz, a Turkish instrument a little like a guitar or bouzouki.
PAINLESS is an impressive follow-up from Yanya, launching her career with two excellent records.
Best Nilüfer Yanya Songs
In Your Head
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