One of the UK’s many young soul singers is back, this time it’s Andreya Triana with her second album, Giants. Along the same vein as Duffy, Amy Winehouse, or maybe even Adele, Triana delivers a retro-tinged soul album. Unlike them, though, Triana’s Giants is packed with positive messages, has many electronic synth sounds, and lacks a certain je ne said quoi. It’s soul music, but it’s lacking soul; it’s nice to listen to, but it doesn’t give you an emotional response deep in your gut. Triana’s raspy voice has soul; she has great talent. The vocals, lead and backing, give you everything you could want. Backing vocals are used effectively to build the songs, though with all the other sounds used to build the song, things get messy.
Giants is incredibly positive. Even when dealing with life’s problems, it has a positive twist. On “Lullaby,” Triana sings about how stressful life can but but describes how she finds solace in “songs of wisdom” played on repeat. Even hoarding isn’t so bad: “Clutterbug” seems to take a proactive approach to loving a hoarder, asking them to throw it all away (the excess possessions) before they throw it all away (the relationship.) The most negative song is “Keep Running,” in which Triana tells the story of a hardworking man who can’t seem to make ends meet for his family juxtaposed against the story of a beautiful but unhappy rich girl whose parents are too busy shopping to notice her. Though they’re both ready to throw in the towel, she stays on the positive theme and urges them to keep running. “Giants” is about heartbreak, but our protagonist gains strength from it and is able to walk like a giant. Triana looks at the bright side in “Paperwalls:” thin, breakable paper walls allow her to be closer to others and holes in the roof let flowers get the sunlight they need to grow. The glass is half-full on “Gold” as well, as she sees beauty where others don’t. This definitely isn’t Amy Winehouse, here’s no hard feelings or hard drinking here.
Where the album seems to lose its soul is the music. Though Triana’s Facebook page lists her genre as soul/acoustic, there are a lot of electronic and synth sounds. These electronic sounds and samples fit in at some points but not others. “Paperwalls” has all kinds of samples layered on, including snapping percussion, horns, quick repeated vocals, and a drum machine. The horns remind me of Bastille’s remix of the Wombats’ “Greek Tragedy.” But that’s just it: it’s reminiscent of a remix and not the moving acoustic song it could be. There’s something inorganic about much of the album. Even the handclaps on “Keep Running” sound more like an effect than actual human hands. They’re too quick, too uniform. “Gold” has a stomping beat (it is literally stomped in the beginning) that brings Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” to mind, but the similarities end at the that thumping beat and backing choir. There are too many effects like some shimmery synth, there’s organ at one point, electric guitar thrown in… there’s just a lot going on. Pared down, it would be easier to appreciate the simple things that are so great in this song like that strong beat and the vocals.
This isn’t a bad album, it’s pleasant to listen to in a way that would make it perfect playing over the loudspeakers at Home Depot or Michaels Arts & Crafts. It’s enjoyable, but it won’t punch you in the gut emotionally. It’s an easy album, but I want a soul album to speak to my soul. Triana could be on her way there, though; she has all of the necessary talent but may need to cut out some of the distractions.