I’m a sucker for a great voice and Alice Russell delivers. This Brit has a powerful voice and a lot of soul; she’s like a cross between Adele, Jill Scott, and Cee Lo Green. While this is a soul album, Russell gets slightly more experimental than singers like Scott would typically get, hence the Cee Lo comparison. Though her new album, To Dust, contains expected instruments like piano, strings, drums, guitar, bass, and keyboard, the way they are combined is a little bit unexpected. For example, there’s a shimmery keyboard sound that is heavily featured on “A to Z,” sneaks back in “Heartbreaker Part 2,” and reappears in “Twin Peaks.” I assume that someone involved with this album thought it sounded really cool but it’s not cool enough to be featured on this many tracks. One, maybe two songs, max. The bass and drums make each song quite interesting. Broken beats on “Citizens” and “For A While” frustrate my brain but they work for the songs. It all sets Russell apart from other soul artists.
The tracks showcase her amazing vocals, by far the best part of the album (the one song that minimizes them by having a group singing in the choruses, “Different,” shows that her vocals are what is making the album worth a listen.) Given her talent, I was surprised to find out that To Dust is Russell’s fifth album in a decade. How has she not caught on? British soul singers like Adele, Amy Winehouse and Duffy gained enough fame in the past decade that I can’t understand how a powerful voice like Russell’s hasn’t gained popularity.
Russell seems to have an infatuation with heartbreakers. Or maybe she just really likes the title. The strangest part of the album is that there are tracks called “Heartbreaker Part 2,” “Heartbreaker,” and “Heartbreaker (Interlude,)” in that order. Yes, “Part 2” comes before the plain old “Heartbreaker.” I’ll just assume that she wrote “Part 2” first but wanted it as the second track. “Heartbreaker” is passive with the heartbreakee asking the heartbreaker how she is supposed to breathe. “Part 2” gets accusatory, as if the same woman gained some strength back after the initial pain of the heartbreak. The interlude is a reprise of plain old “Heartbreaker.”
The whole album is good, but “Hard and Strong” and “To Dust” really stand out. The former featured a strong beat, driving strings, and higher (almost falsetto) vocals. Despite its quick drum beat, the vocals on “To Dust” are slow and sultry. A song that seems to center on strained finances has never sounded so sexy. Considering the song’s strength, I’m shocked to find out that it hasn’t been made a single yet. Maybe that’s why she hasn’t hit the big times here yet, the world hasn’t been presented with her best. Well, now you have no excuse, the track is below.
MP3: Alice Russell “To Dust”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl