Singer-songwriter Nadia Reid hails from Port Chalmers, a port suburb of Dunedin, New Zealand, that’s known for alternative life-stylers and artists. Her mother is a local jazz singer, and operating in the singer-songwriter genre, it’s easy to overlook what a capable vocalist Nadia Reid is, with a full, rich voice.
But even more impressive than her singing voice is her writing voice – she has a clear individual style, even when she’s writing about well worn territory like relationships. There’s enough enigma around her songs that they keep listeners coming back for more – they’re usually blurry and evocative, rather than straightforward. Reid often works with a full band, but with her personal, confessional songs, it’s safe to file her as a singer-songwriter.
Reid self-released her first album, Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs, in 2014, and it gained attention in international publications. Her debut showcased a talented songwriter, but her second album Preservation, takes everything a step further, more confident, and more accomplished, and was deserving of its second place on Mojo’s Best Albums of 2017 list.
Nadia Reid Album Reviews
Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs
Nadia Reid first picked up a guitar at the age of fifteen, and Listen To Formation… is an incredibly poised album from a songwriter in her early twenties. Reid purposely self-released the album, and it relied on glowing international reviews to raise its profile – Reid stated “that was something I was really conscious of with self-releasing the first album – I didn’t want to have to beg anyone to put my record out, to force something that wasn’t meant to be.” There was no need to worry – Formation is a strong debut album, showcasing a songwriter with a unique perspective already in place. It’s more subdued and introspective than her next album, with gentler arrangements centred around Reid’s guitar.
Highlights include the opening ‘Runway’, with its evocative opening line, “When I hit the ground in all my glory/I will know where I have come from” and guitarist Sam Taylor’s shimmering textures accompanying Reid’s acoustic picking. ‘Call The Days’ has a beautiful hook, while the louder ‘Reaching Through’ and ‘Holy Low’ provide punchy contrast to the low key songs.
Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs is an assured, impressive debut, but Reid would surpass it with her next effort.
Reid opts for a more full bodied sound on her confident sophomore record. She’s again fronting her four piece band of jazz school graduates, and it suits her better. Her powerful voice suits the band format, and her songs are personal enough that they still feel intimate and enigmatic, even with the band arrangements. Preservation is palpably a breakup album – Reid paints a portrait of her ex-boyfriend on the excellent ‘Richard’. ‘Reach My Destination’ is acoustic, but it’s powerful because it’s so unusually direct for Reid: “There were two little words that I used/One was ‘fuck’, the other was ‘you’”.
Seeing Reid live recently, ‘Richard’ was the most requested song from her catalogue – Reid didn’t play guitar on it live, instead letting her band rock through it, while only supplying the commanding vocals. It’s a great rock song, filled with great imagery (“Filled the sink with blood/And I am on the cross of forgiveness”). ‘The Arrow And The Aim’ is pretty and melodic, but its delivered with squally guitar and a downtrodden sounding rhythm section. ‘Ain’t Got You’ ends the record with a mournful gravitas that belies Reid’s young age.
Preservation is an incredibly strong record from a very gifted songwriter,
Out Of My Province
Nadia Reid named her third album for a quote from New Zealand author Janet Frame, known for the biographical film An Angel at My Table. Out Of My Province is a fitting title – Reid ended up recording in Richmond, Virginia. Her co-producer is Spacebomb’s Matthew E. White, who’s worked with Natalie Prass and Sharon Van Etten. He allows Reid access to a much wider range of textures than before. Out of My Province sometimes feels like a compromise – like an audition tape for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert – and Reid sacrifices some of the intimacy that characterised her previous records.
Sometimes the fuller arrangements work; the horn flourishes on ‘High & Lonely’ add another dimension. On the other hand, tunes like ‘Oh Canada’ and ‘The Future’ are too slick to allow Reid’s personality to shine through. My favourite track is the opening ‘All Of My Love’, which supports a pretty tune with a classy countrified arrangement, while the simpler arrangements on tracks like ‘Who Is Protecting Me’ allow Reid space to breathe. Reid’s voice remains a major asset, and it shines with the fuller arrangements. Guitarist Sam Taylor is still present, and gives Reid’s music some edge when he’s utilised, but Out Of My Province is too tame overall.
Out Of My Province successfully expands the scope of Reid’s music, but it doesn’t quite capture enough of her unique personality; hopefully her next release can do both.
Five Favourite Nadia Reid Songs
Ain’t Got You
All Of My Love
Call The Days
The Arrow and the Aim
Reach My Destination
Who Is Protecting Me
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