Lucie Silvas released yesterday her third studio album, Letters To Ghosts. It’s one that’s been long-awaited – Silvas’ second album, The Same Side, was released in 2007, and several songs from Letters To Ghosts first made their appearance as early as 2011. For fans, it’s a journey worth the wait, as Silvas’ most recent offering bursts with personality and talent.
Letters To Ghosts is a bit of a stylistic departure for the UK-born and New Zealand-bred artist, who released two albums via Mercury Records in the mid-2000’s that caught international listeners’ ears and earned her Platinum sales. For Letters To Ghosts, Silvas retains the sense of soul-infused pop that brought her success, but trades some of the pop-brushed synthetics and bombastic ballads for a sound that’s more organic, steeped in instrumentation aesthetics favored in her current home of Nashville. Though pop sensibilities remain central on the record, Silvas abandons traditional pop melodies for a sound that’s more personal. It’s not a country record per se, but it carries a personability and instrumentation that will click for fans of a wide set of genres.
As always, Silvas anchors the music with her voice. Simultaneously stunningly powerful and breathtakingly haunting, Silvas leads at times with strength and conviction, at times breaking on the dawn of a new tomorrow, as in the delicate first lines of “Unbreakable Us.”
She leads the album with “Letters To Ghosts,” a conviction-filled tune with rolling momentum and a vocal that’s arresting in its housing of both strength and loss. “I can’t let go of someone I wanted the most / still on fire, I’m writing to letters to ghosts,” Silvas sings. Though there’s a dichotomy of emotion, Silvas makes it clear that she takes no prisoners – or, as her video indicates, literally takes prisoners. Silvas proves herself throughout the album as a master of the emotional build, as on the soul-infused second track, “Smoke.”
Soul is a word that arises again and again when listening to Silvas – the singer possesses a voice that just oozes it. Some artists hit notes, but even on her most sunny tracks, Silvas is a singer whose voice is just a vessel for the molten core that burns beneath the surface, heated with passion and cooled with heartache, to enter the world. It’s an artistic fire tempered by strong songwriting, from the sultry “Villain” to the smoky “Shame.” If the lead to “Roots,” “There is fear in the thought of freedom / There are ways out and I see them,” holds any weight for Silvas, she’s duct-taped its lips and locked it in the car along with her title-track trunk tenant.
Not that Silvas doesn’t have a cheery side. Songs like “Find A Way,” channel a lightness akin to artists like Sara Bareilles; the classic guitar-aided optimism of throwbacks like Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny;” and the grooviness, even in bluer lyrics, of Fleetwood Mac – at times, even allusions to songs like Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” flicker across the eardrums. “If you think love is easy / then I’m not the one who’s crazy,” Silvas sings on “How To Lose It All,” a rocking uptempo that finds companionship in love’s complexities, a song of which artists like The Doors may have been fans. And when that love-fire steadies, Silvas has “Pull The Stars Down,” with the simple and romantic hook, “you make the mountains easier to get around.”
Silvas closes the album with a cover of Roy Orbison’s “You Got It,” accompanied by a simple piano, which Silvas learned to play when she was five years old, and sparse guitar. As with much of the album, it’s Silvas’ vocal that leads the charge, delivering a performance that invites the listener to put breathing on hold, for a scant five minutes, lest they miss a note. As with the strongest covers, Silvas honors the strength of the classic while re-imagining the work as her own. Silvas’ “You Got It” is doting, sure, but there’s something stronger at work, a devotion that’s unhealthy, a love that makes corporeality trivial.
Take a listen to Letters To Ghosts below, and grab it on iTunes.