If you heard the singles that preceded the debut self-titled album from Nico Paulo, you are probably not surprised to hear that the Nova Scotia-based, Portuguese-Canadian artist’s album is filled with wonderful songs. However, it is something more than that too; it is an artist bursting out the gate with a fully realised musical identity explored over the course of ten tracks.
The initial urge to simply describe her sound as indie folk needs to be put aside immediately, as it doesn’t even begin to cover the range of influences on this album. The grace and fluidity that Nico manages to move between these different sonic templates with is astounding, and makes it almost not obvious how varied the album is until you really pay attention (a strength of this album is how effective the arrangements are at getting the listener lost in the music).
Even just looking at the three singles, there is already more variety than many artists would have over an entire album, from lead single ‘Now Or Never’s’ relatively standard indie folk sound, to the infectious and driving grooves of ‘Time’, and ‘The Master’s’ swelling choruses (the guitar on this song just sweeps me away). But those tracks don’t even touch on the bossa nova influences, which can be heard clearly on the ballad ‘Amor Amor Amor,’ or the down tempo shuffle vibes of a track like ‘Lock Me Inside.’
It is hard to pick the best song on an album that is filled with songs so consistently beautiful and interesting, but as a sucker for a good climax, ‘Learning My Ways’ is up there. Nico is truly great at crafting these song endings that you wish could just vamp forever, but she shows amazing restraint in ending the songs before they ever start to drag.
In general, the album does a great job of introducing new sounds and ideas throughout without ever relying on one for too long, always moving on to something that is just as or even more ear-catching. With so much to say about the depth and variety of the instrumental arrangements, I haven’t even touched on Nico’s singing yet, which is perhaps the main highlight of the album overall.
In the end, it is hard to try and cover everything here because there really is just so much. While I could gush about her singing which also draws to mind many favorable comparisons (to quote the Bandcamp page for the album: “In the tradition of singers like Gal Costa, Nico, Feist or Victoria Legrand, Paulo packs profound strength into songs that spare no tenderness or nuance.”), I am not worried about the fact I didn’t. Because I am sure Nico Paulo has more to say; the amount she has packed into just about thirty minutes is already amazing. Whatever she has to say next, I will definitely be listening – it’s hard not to.
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