Nancy Elizabeth – Dancing (Leaf)

A beautiful album of finely wrought songs from the Manchester folk singer, her third. I say folk singer and she is on one level, but really this album brings together so many alluring influences that I wouldn't like to contain her in that pigeonhole. It’s called Dancing and many of the songs are like slowed down or re-imagined dance tunes – dance tunes with the obvious dancey bits removed. You could still dance to them of course but the average clubber might be a bit nonplussed.

‘Mexico’ for example uses layered vocals, a sprightly piano and some handclaps to paint an ethereal, hazy mood; given the right remix/booming backbeat, the average clubber might not be so nonplussed.

‘Simon says dance’ – dancing as a metaphor for love or life - has a similar piano core with a background synth hum. The only rhythmic feature on this album version is a bank of brilliant, bird-like, syncopated backing vocals, although the single version takes on the dancing conceit by adding a feathery backbeat.

The emotional intensity of the singing and the lyrical piano playing are the main threads through the album. Both are combined to great effect on songs like ‘Heart’ (“For him I removed my very skin”), ‘Shimmering song’ (a choir of Nancys creating a great heightened, circling atmosphere) and the glorious ‘Desire’ (again those otherworldly harmonies, and ballad piano giving a nod to RnB if I’m not mistaken).

For my two favourite moments, I’d have to plump for the memorable ‘Debt’, like a (music) history lesson wrapped in a love song, with flamenco claps, medieval harpstrings and antique drones over a Balearic beat. And opener ‘The last battle’, setting a tone of complete and utter majesty around its tale of defiance – another tune you could dance to, while shaking your first perhaps and dreaming of a Morricone-esque narrative.

Dancing to forget, dancing to remember, dancing to make your romantic head spin, dancing to defy, dancing as a warning, dancing to echo the feet of our ancestors. This is a gorgeous web of an album, light and springy, and catching the light repeatedly at unexpected angles.


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