It’s been five long years since Andreya Triana released her beautifully atmospheric debut Lost Where I Belong, on which she demonstrated her gifted smoky and sultry voice over exquisitely produced tracks by down-tempo genius Bonobo. It was a unique kind of soul, one that was understated yet utterly captivating, and it marked Andreya as a special talent, one with truly exciting potential.
As impressive as her debut was, she never quite broke through into the mainstream with it though, the sound just wasn’t accessible enough for it, and this is the glaring difference on her new album Giants. It’s quite clear that she’s made a conscious decision to make the songs sound bigger, and to give them a bit more bounce and energy. This might sound like she’s sacrificed that special type of soul and tenderness that she poured into her debut album, but she’s managed to strike the perfect balance between it and a much more polished sound, one that can exist in the mainstream but still boasts considerably more life than much of everything else existing in today’s mainstream.
Take “Song For A Friend” for example. It’s a heart-stirring track with just a piano and a dazzling string arrangement to partner Andreya’s stunning vocals, and it’s in this stripped back world in which her spirit shines the brightest. With a voice like hers, you don’t need much else happening around you, and thankfully she’s smart enough to trust in that voice of gold that she has. Listening to her is as effective a character test as there is: if the corners of your mouth don’t rise up into a small smile and there’s no flood of feelings deep down inside when she reassures that “you know I will be here at the end of the day”, you’ll have to unfortunately resign yourself to the fact that you’ve got a heart made of stone.
“Everything You Never Had, Pt. II” follows in the same vein. It’s Andreya’s touching tribute to her mum, a love-letter and a thank you, for the “arms of love wrapped around me”, and it will make you want to pick up the phone and dial home, just to hear your own mum’s voice and tell her you love her. It makes you appreciate any and all loved ones in your life and cherish them even more, and the sweet sentiments don’t stop there. She puts things into perspective in the brass-laden R&B of “That’s Alright With Me“, sharing that “if all we got is love, then that’s enough for me”. Life can just be that simple after all, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that, so distracted in today’s world of material pursuits.
Then there’s the huge sound of single “Gold“, the updated version of Andreya, something that you wouldn’t have heard from her five years ago. It’s got what sounds like a 50-strong choir helping her belt out the rousing chorus, and wouldn’t feel at all out of place in a gospel church. “It might not be diamonds”, she says in the verse, but it’s definitely got a sparkle. The dirty funk of “Keep Running” is another product of the newer Andreya, it’s full of attitude and has a spring in its step, while in the twinkling and flittering “Lullaby“, she pays a charming tribute to Lauryn Hill, her biggest influence, balancing her heart-felt sound alongside a bubbly exuberance, not something prevalent on her early more serene material.
Giants introduces us to a new Andreya Triana. A version 2.0. Evolving your sound is something you have to do as an artist, and she’s done the right kind of growing in the last five years. She has a knack for pulling at your heartstrings, not just with that mesmerising voice of hers, but with the way she transmits emotion so distinctly through it. That’s the Triana magic, and losing it in favour of what’s now a more vivacious sound could’ve been easy, but she still sings from her heart. Just in much bigger way. Andreya Triana’s Giants is out now on Counter Records, purchase it here.
Words by Oli Kuscher