Shura’s Nothing’s Real is an assured, excellently crafted debut, boasting a slick collection of throwback pop with a modern twist.
The past few years have been a magical era for fans of pop music yearning for the sounds of the past, with artists such as HAIM and La Roux mining the best and most memorable sounds of the 70s and 80s. Now Shura joins that venerable cohort, with Nothing’s Real drawing these sounds together in a way that is at once cohesive, diverse and accessible.
Self-produced, it also boasts production from pop masterminds Greg Kurstin (Adele, Tegan and Sara) and Al Shux (Lana Del Rey, Alicia Keys), who have both helped to refurb the record’s sonic palette. It’s clear and focused, and foregrounds Shura’s considerable songwriting prowess.
Opening with the ambient instrumental piece (i), the record instantly dives into the titular track ‘Nothing’s Real’, evoking the best of Like a Virgin–era Madonna, with its swinging rhythms and propulsive drum machine beats – even her vocals bear a striking similarity. But it goes further, with the chorus building into into a lush, disco-infused wall of sound, with slap guitars and swelling string harmonies soaring over the arrangement. It’s irresistibly danceable, and an early highlight.
From there, the record flits between synthpop, new wave, soft rock, and RnB as her vocals morph from Madonna, to Stevie Nicks, to Blondie. ‘Tongue Tied‘ has shades of Toto’s Africa, while ‘What Happened to Us’ channels the moody synths and driving guitar work of New Order.
However, it’s also more than just an obsessively studied tribute to the classics of pop, with the biggest surprise coming in the form of album closer ‘The Space Tracks’ – a vaguely Pink Floyd inspired piece. Running for just over nine and a half minutes, it meanders and jumps between an assortment of experimental and psychedelic textures, and it’s an intriguing even if slightly jarring inclusion.
There’s very little to fault overall. It’s a love letter to a beloved era of music, by a gifted artist with an ear – and infectious passion – for the sounds that have left an indelible mark on her. But she seeks to go beyond mere recreation, and reminds us that this is still a record that was produced in the present. Nothing’s Real is an ambitious, attentively crafted selection of top-notch pop songwriting. Shura knows what exactly what she’s doing here. And for a debut, she pulls it off with impressive aplomb.
Based in: Manchester, United Kingdom.
Sounds like: Haim, La Roux, Sky Ferreira, Susanne Sundfør.
Say what? Shura learned the ins-and-outs of music production by watching YouTube tutorials.
Over and out, Darren.