You will hear a lot of people telling you who Marie Naffah sounds like and some of the comparisons hold credence. Names like Amy Winehouse, Florence Welch, Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell are often thrown into the mix and of course the intention is purely complementary; to be compared to or even emulate any of these stunning artists will I’m sure thrill Marie to bits. However, the more I listen to this artist and I’ve been fortunate enough to see two very different live performances, the more I realise that Marie Naffah really doesn’t sound like these artists.
This is not because of anything detrimental, far from it; the reason she doesn’t sound like these artists is that she very much has a voice and style of her own.
All of these artists have deep soul in their music and I’m sure that this is what draws the comparisons but the reason NME made this artist one of their ‘Big 10’ artists to watch in a post pandemic world and the reason she was named MTV’s ‘Unsigned Artist of the Year’ is very much because of her uniqueness, very much because of that weird thing that happens when an articulate, well dressed young artist opens her mouth and what comes out is a voice that captures the reason that music moves us, it captures the heart and soul we crave in the music that becomes the soundtrack to our lives, it captures something that is both hugely contemporary and yet movingly nostalgic at the same time.
Today, Marie Naffah releases an EP of four very different songs which whilst all bringing something new, all bring the artist’s insightful lyrics and life commentary and are filled with her usual deep voice that manages to be mournful at times and joyous at others; a recipe for an EP that will never grow old and will in fact ingrain itself upon your soul with each listen. Written from journal notes made on railway journeys all over the UK whilst she was completing the NME sponsored ‘50/50: For The Love of Live Tour’ which took Marie to 50 eclectic venues in 50 travel filled days, Marie was keen to draw inspiration from the landscapes that flashed past her window and the life affirming glimpses into the everyday lives of so many people and this EP is at least part of the result.
“The reflection time you get on long journeys is really important for me. If you get a window seat, it feels like you’re the star of a movie watching things go past. Windows have that kind of romance around travel and dreaming”
Parts of the EP were made in a ramshackle walk in wardrobe studio in Madrid, but at it’s heart it is very much an EP about being at home, about coming home; whether you define home as a place or a state of mind suggests that you could be in a number of places and still feel ‘at home’ and that is something that is not lost in the soul searching nature of the EP. Wherever the writing or recording happened there is a real continuity of class that pervades all four tracks and brings them together as a stunning piece of work.
Maybe the most stunning thing about this EP is how it evolves from her last EP ‘Golden State’ which was inspired by a sun drenched road trip up the West Coast of America and fused her classic song writing with Americana. This EP is sonically a move away from that and yet there’s a real feeling of evolution rather than revolution that is brought beautifully together by the final track on the EP and focus single ‘Good Luck (Mrs Tambourine Ma’am) which is a contemporary spin on the Bob Dylan classic and confronts the ever changing music industry and how it can be a fickle lover. The line “I was one to watch and now the critics say that they’re asking for my head on a paper plate” is so evocative of the struggle that new artists find themselves in as they try to navigate the minefield of following their creative dream and yet managing to garner the likes, follows and streams that are necessary to perpetuate it. Marie Naffah is fortunate at the moment in that this project is backed by Frictionless Music, a disruptor company that is keen not to be seen as the status quo label as it finds an innovative and supportive way to make music. The fact that they are working with this stunningly unique talent might be all the disruption they need as I get the feeling that Marie Naffah is one of those artists that will be around for some time to come. Listen to her EP, let it grow into your world and add it to your playlist; that way we can support talented artists like her.
The four songs on the release are first single ‘I Want More’ which has already landed the coveted ‘Spotlight Artist’ slot on The Independent, ‘Run Away With Me’ which feels like it could almost be a musical idea for a romantic movie, the breathtakingly raw ‘Angie’ and, of course, ‘Good Luck’ a tongue in cheek and yet hugely powerful song about the dichotomy of what that phrase can mean dependent on tone. The stories and people that Marie Naffah discovered when she spent all that time on trains has named and inspired the music on this EP which is mostly recorded with Ian Barter who has worked with Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith and Izzy Bizu in the past. Listen to the EP and I’m sure you’ll agree that in the future the name of Marie Naffah will be added to that list in future reviews by writers like me. I am confident that in years to come I will use the phrase ‘I told you so’ when I’m referring to this artist but I’ll steer away from saying ‘Good Luck’.