Fans of the eclectic sprawl of Nilüfer Yanya’s 2019 debut album, Miss Universe, may be a little disappointed in her more conventional follow-up; there are no satirical parodies of wellness culture on painless, and no surprising jazzy sax solos. But if the new record isn’t an advance over its predecessor, its consistency suggests that the West London singer and guitarist is settling in for the long haul. The music effortlessly conjures a dreamy indie-pop groove, with trip-hop beats offset by Yanya’s angular, brooding guitar fuzz. Her half-mumbled vocals, which shift from a low whisper to a wispy falsetto, are her most distinctive sound, but what makes painless work is her gift for writing melodic pop hooks and quiet earworms. The singles “Stabilise” and “Midnight Sun” are both excellent, but any of these songs could’ve easily headlined the collection. Listen to the strummed chorus of “Shameless” once or twice, and you might find yourself humming it for days—right up through the multitracked harmonized call-and-response section that steers the tune in an unexpected left turn just before it ends. The more up-tempo “Chase Me” has a strutting, summery melody that feels all the sweeter in contrast with the song’s distorted proto-industrial beat. painless isn’t dramatic or in-your-face, but its carefully, lovingly crafted songs are all the more impressive for that.
Nilufer Yanyas painless is available through Bandcamp.