Developing as an artist in 2016 is not straightforward. The most exciting beginnings are rarely given the time and attention to flourish and potential is allowed to fade all too easily. At the beginning of 2014 a track hit the internet that set the so-called blogosphere alight. ‘Touch’ put Shura on the map, opening our eyes to the new RnB-tinged electro-pop artist. Countless ones-to-watch lists and 26 million YouTube views later and the half-Russian, Shepherd’s Bush-based songwriter/singer/producer has a finished debut album that feels not only like the realisation of potential, but also like the record Shura wanted and deserved to make.
Painstakingly recorded over this two year period (even sparking hasshurafinishedheralbumyet.com) Nothing’s Real is a collection of songs that showcase Shura’s array of inspirations and songwriting skill. Fans of ‘Touch’, and the tracks that teased this release, will be pleased to hear existing favourites punctuating proceedings. ‘Indecision’ remains a bouncing pop-disco affair that lodges between the ears and demands dancing, likewise the swinging, string-infused title track and ‘2Shy’ are romantic, relatable slow-jams for the sensitive side. ‘Kidz N Stuff’ too provides a gossamer, emotional break-up moment, building into its pulsating, hypnotic outro.
It’s when Shura picks up the pace that Nothing’s Real feels really exciting though. ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ is a Springsteen-inspired highlight with irresistible 80s power flavours shining through. An even better example of this guitar-driven development comes with ‘What Happened To Us?’, its pounding bass line thunders the action along below her effortlessly hushed vocal, telling another tale of love and loss – a theme that dominates Nothing’s Real. There are shades of the underrated HAERTS at play as the track inspires and uplifts, while simultaneously recalling a saddening memory. ‘Tongue Tied’ also stands out as a chunky, Jungle-esque disco cut with its big synth sound marrying effortlessly with reverb-heavy guitar work, before ‘Make It Up’ – which could sit very comfortably on a new Haim record – continues the six-string motif that is wonderfully wrapped-up by the elongated wig out at the end of ‘White Light’.
Something for everyone then, and this is the beauty of the album; a long time in the making it may have been but Shura has been able to create a full-length that represents her growth and breadth as an artist and as a person, with childhood anecdotes littering the record. Nothing’s Real she says, but out of unreal early attention we find a very real artist indeed.