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Joana Serrat’s New Record

j-44

Joana Serrat HARDCORE FROM THE HEART. Loose Music

HARDCORE FROM THE HEART IS RELEASED JUNE 11 ON LOOSE MUSIC

On ‘Pictures’ Serrat comments, “Pictures talks about disillusion and the failure of communication,” comments Serrat. “It’s also a reminder of the amount of time we stupidly waste on trivial details. That idea of ‘perfection never comes’ is that you are better off just living your life because things can always go wrong. Tables turn in the blink of an eye. So putting off things while waiting for the right time to do them kills me.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNo3iYsOrJA

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Review

A few years ago I witnessed a live performance at Manchester’s tiny Deaf Institute by a young Spanish lady called Joana Serrat. I was impressed and pleased to find that she was a singer/songwriter rather than a more typical dance beat diva (for mainstream UK listening). HARDCORE FROM THE HEART succeeds in underlining my respect and admiration for Serrat from the record’s first few notes. ‘Easy’ is a moody, contemplative and beautifully arranged song with its slow steady beat behind a young, sweet voice that oozes expression and sincerity. It’s unusual in that while it’s an emotional piece it also manages to develop into an epic listen with its Spector-esque production, underpinned by a lovely melody and well-judged backing vocal harmonies. Lyrics are simple and effective: “Far from all the harm/Under those big blue skies/I’ll be ready to sprout/No more walls to bring down/Never scared of getting drowned/All trails will lead me home.”

Introspection is at the heart of this record and there’s probably no better example than the next track and first single ‘Pictures’. The sound is more upbeat, the melody strong, while the vocal is more wistful. Serrat comments: “The song takes place in Montréal and it’s about a broken promise. It was inspired by the fact I didn’t let myself be angry with that disappointment. I built a wall and let my frustration and sadness grow in this space but never expressed it. That took a toll on me and by the time I realized it, it was too late.”

‘These Roads’ slows the pace with a dominant back-beat and mild Americana vibe. Serrat’s voice is deliberate and almost at talking pace before instrumental interludes arrive to punctuate the song. It’s a thoughtful, emotional song with lyrics echoing the sincere sentiments: “Finally finding myself/Am I good for you?/Reaching the edge from the unknown/Feelings I cannot undo...” ‘You’re With Me Everywhere I Go’ follows with greater sonic focus on Serra’s expressive and clear vocal. As with most songs here, melody keeps one listening and enjoying, especially with the wonderful massed instrumental arrangement.

‘Summer Never Ends’ reverts to a much simpler instrumental arrangement with guitar taking a central role. Serrat’s voice takes on a whispered and mellow tone as she communicates more emotional thoughts: “Summer never ends/In this sunset soul of mine/Teenage thoughts/Haunting me/Every time/Am I scared of running wild?...” Another strong melody seals the deal for me. On ‘How To Make You Love Me’ the slow, haunting distant sounds, perfect production and vocal win me again.

‘Demons’ arrives with more rapid pace while the vibe is contemplative and compelling. ‘Take Me Back Where I Belong’ is a heartbreaker of a song with Serrat’s pleading, sad vocal towering over the subtle instrumental backdrop. Lyrically, it hits the mark: “I am broken/And I miss you/I’m broken/And it burns in my chest/I want you/I’m broken.” Melody completes another beautiful package. ‘Hotel Room’ is another thoughtful song as Serrat sings to her lost lover: “Sorry I dragged you down/Into this great escape of mine/I wanted to live/So fully this fantasy/I needed a reason/To set myself free.” Serrat’s voice rises high and falls in passionate emotion. This is probably one of my favourite tracks.

As you can probably tell, I like this album a lot. There’s diversity of pace and mood, with superb instrumental arrangements and a singer able to reflect her feeling in song so very well. Production is peerless and ensures that the record’s sentiments and feelings hit home. Serrat has managed to distinguish herself in a crowded marketplace of high-rolling, over-hyped, mainstream female performers, and I hope she receives fair media and radio coverage as just rewards. Highly recommended.

4.5/5

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BACKGROUND

Serrat’s fifth album, HARDCORE FROM THE HEART is the follow-up to 2017’s acclaimed DRIPPING SPRINGS (”…sounds like an alliance of Mazzy Star and Slowdive - now imagine that, and it gets better.” Americana UK). For the recording, Serrat travelled from her home in Vic, a small city near Barcelona, to Redwood Studio in Denton, Texas, where she teamed up with engineer and producer Ted Young (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo).

HARDCORE FROM THE HEART starts with loss and ends with acceptance of the impossibility of achieving an ideal life, examining the imbalance that exists between the life lived and the ideal sought. Its title is borrowed from the book by sexologist and essayist Annie Sprinkles to reflect the nuanced, emotional and introspective journey that Serrat pursues in her lyrics and music.

Joana Serrat has performed on the biggest festival stages across Europe and the USA, including Black Deer Festival, Celtic Connections and The Long Road in the UK, SXSW and Americana Fest in the USA, and Benicassim and Primavera Sound at home in Spain. She’s supported artists including The Jayhawks, Neko Case, Courtney Marie Andrews, The Handsome Family, and Israel Nash, while performing headline shows across the globe, including the UK.

On HARDCORE FROM THE HEART, Joana is joined by some of the musicians she worked with on ‘Dripping Springs’ - including guitarist Joey McClellan (Midlake, BNQT, John Grant) and bassist Aaron McClellan (Josh T. Pearson, BNQT) - who are joined by drummer McKenzie Smith (St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, First Aid Kit) and keyboard-player Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev).

The work is rounded off by contributions of both pedal steel guitarist Eric Swanson (Nathaniel Rateliff, Israel Nash) and her brother Toni Serrat on drums. The magical varnish of mastering this flammable and fragile material is down to sound engineer Heba Kadry (Slowdive, Beach House, Future Islands).

The end result is a painfully honest and moving album, which grows on you with each hearing as new and rich complexities are discovered. The album showcases Serrat’s best vocal performance to date and marks a literary peak in her song-writing career.

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https://open.spotify.com/artist/1qWhRJpf4PFL9T0RXvIPWi
https://www.facebook.com/JoanaSerrat
https://twitter.com/joanaserrat?lang=en
https://soundcloud.com/joana-serratB08YNR6JBH


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