Izzi Dunn - Cries and Smiles
I fall for it oh, so easily. Give me the slightest whiff of old school jazz soul and I'm on my hind legs like a half-starved puppy. Obviously the suits don't trust us, so the closest we're allowed to get to the glories of the past comes sequenced and polished to a blinding sheen, all bleeps and over-emoting tied to the constraints of r 'n' f***ing b.
Fear not. Plasticky urban beats can go hang. Izzi Dunn's second album is as surreally 'real' as you like. As high as a kite on its own jaw-dropping sense of adventure and ambition. It stands tall above the grey cityscape of nu soul and grinds a sharpened stilleto until its buildings are dust. Trust me - this British, classically trained cellist, armed with songwriting panache and daredevil vocals, is one to watch. With a telescope. No bitching, no 'Come together' proselytising, no flabby clichés about love gone sour/sweet. In their place, Dunn focuses on the mindless sexing up of pop ('Tits and Ass' - probably not gonna make the 1FM playlist) and our vaccous obsession with fame and cash on 'Loser'.
On 'Nothing but Love', urbane as opposed to urban, she recalls the classic US soul that you might have found on the likes of Anita Baker's Rapture album. If you're up for a witty as hell take on musical proclamations of lurrve, get this: "I would walk a thousand miles, but my feet would get too sore / I could swim a thousand oceans ... but all that exercise is such a chore." Awards and stuff now!
Prince comes to mind, if only because his purple-ness would love this (shimmering as it does with the kind of spry funkery that he nailed down so well on 'Around the World in a Day'.) Probably already does. He'd make Izzi his muse or something, hastily marry her and give her an unpronouncable name. Oh, and for the record, astounding vocals, accomplished and gymnastic. Oh, sweet mother of Mary. And Diana. and Tammi. I can't remember the last time I got so hot about something so last century as singing. Cowell would tell her she didn't know how good she was. I just know she'd look him straight in the eye and purr back "Oh, I think I do ..."
The shift from bullseye grooves to piano jazz simply thrills. The poison pen affair to dismember of 'Kill Me Slow' is Portishead-meets-Randy Crawford and, like much of this album, engages brain as well as feet. Cries and Whispers is beautifully packaged, all silky strings, minimal beats, a flourish of acoustic guitar. It's musicality, as much as its simple but elegant architecture, as much as its creator's performance levels, make it irresistable. Dunn's inner visions are brought dancing into the bright lights. Blinding.