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Charlene Soraia – Where’s My Tribe (Peacefrog Records)

“My lonely hours they wonder like a vicious mystery”. Isolation and contemplation are powerful themes portrayed consistently through the lyrics, promotional material and production choices on this touching and meaningful album from British folk musician Charlene Soraia. For starters, the Lewisham-born artist recorded her third album Where’s My Tribe only in her south London flat, completely alone and sometimes performing in the early hours of the morning.

To give the record its raw intensity, the temptation to add production smoothness was refreshingly resisted. It was just Charlene Soraia and her guitars and all the atmospheric noise that consequences. Composing an album in such a manner is a brave and risky move because over the course of 10 tracks it could be yawnful and tedious. Yet this musician has several talents that make Where’s My Tribe an all-killer no-filler captivating listen.

The first one being the strength of her vocals. For an album with a lack of error-correcting editing, her voice is flawless. A great advertisement for watching her live because you know she can definitely sing. Indeed, her tone is comparable to Laura Marling much of the time but she also explores many avenues to her singing ability. For example, it’s haunting on the intriguing yet too short song about seclusion ‘Far Beyond The High Street,’ lullaby-like on ‘Harms’, is erratic and reaches a high pitch on ‘Likely To Kill’ and is wafer-thin dreamy on ‘The Journey.’

Like another minimal folk musician in Jose Gonzalez, Soraia’s guitar-playing skills are measured yet varied and exciting. The best examples being on the sharp and speedy acoustics of ‘Likely To Kill’ and on mostly-instrumental ‘The Journey’, in which Soraia’s soothing mood-setting blues-guitar strokes imagine a character lost in a deserted wilderness. This along with echoes created when she taps the side of her acoustic guitar on ‘Saboteur Tiger’ and forceful plucking vibration on the opening title track ‘Where’s My Tribe’, as well as the fuzzy static on ‘Tragic Youth’, utilise the production simplicity rather well and compliment the album’s lyrics of abandonment.

This abandonment is mostly involuntary. The Sam Smith-reminiscent ‘Now You Are With Her’ and the incredibly echoey Lana Del Rey-style ‘Temptation’ are songs of desperate dependency fuelled by bad romantic choices. The protagonist in both songs appear to be involved in an illicit affair with a man who’s already got another committed relationship and when he abandons her she is left without an emotional safety net during her depressive plummets. Lyrics in the former include: “Who am I going turn to? Now you ain’t around.” and the latter include the contrasting lines which really pinpoint her irrational heart-controlled decision-making: “You have a wife. You have a child. How could I resist temptation?” with “I have no life. I have no child. How could I resist temptation?.

This interesting lyrical technique of slight amendments to repeated lyrics of hers is also apparent on ‘Tragic Youth’: “We said the right things to keep us all off” with “We said the right things to get us all off.” and on ‘Saboteur Tiger’: “No more time. No more space. I didn’t wanna be leaving here crying. I’ve made mistakes” with “No more time. No more space. I can’t tell if you are lying. We’ve both lost faith.”

The promotional material for Soraia’s new album Where’s My Tribe was led by a short conceptual film – a technique used by many musicians recently – called The Tribe. A coming-of-age set of vignettes documenting a tribe of modern teenagers on the brink of adulthood contemplating their lives. The contemplative confessions in the film: a character questioning this generation’s attachment to their phones, the inevitably of a friendship collapsing due to a University-inspired move and the need for teenagers to have experimental escapism could have worked better in harmony with lyrics on Charlene Soraia’s album but still they link well with ‘Beautiful People’ which comments of the selfie generation and ‘Tragic Youth’ is rather poetic in its description of adolescent nostalgia: ” My younger years were often spent in silence/And bottled the brew of our strangest thoughts deranged.”

With the musical and lyrical talent showcased on Where’s My Tribe this should propel Charlene Soraia’s reputation to be more than just the singer who covered The Calling‘s ‘Wherever You Will Go’ for that Twining’s advert from 2011.

 

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