- Nabihah Iqbal, formerly known as Throwing Shade, has a wide musical range. Her NTS show has been an outlet for jazz, rock, synth pop, electronic music and field recordings from across the globe. In clubs, she plays a rich selection of funk, disco and house. As a DJ, she exudes confidence; as a producer, she has yet to work it out. In the past few years, she's toyed with several styles—pop, techno, post-internet hybrids—but the results sometimes fell flat. Now, on her full-length debut for Ninja Tune, she makes another subtle shift. On Weighing Of The Heart, a bona fide pop album, the London artist goes back for something that dance music has left behind: fuzzy, washed-out guitar.
The LP brings to mind bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, but only as an echo rather than reinvention. Iqbal feeds her guitar, vocals and '80s-sounding synths through spacey delays, and then arranges them into light and mellow pop tracks. The barest constructions are some of the finest. "Slowly" is built on just three sullen elements—chords, vocals, echoing guitar—where Iqbal's vulnerability becomes arresting. "Feels So Right" blushes with half-sung lyrics and gauzy guitar plucks. "New New Eyes" has a heavier drum pulse, but the rest exists in a haze: the cloudy vocals, the glimmering loops, the psychedelic guitar. Where Iqbal's past work felt like a sugar rush, now it's more of a smolder.
Pop verses are another touch that give the album broad appeal. Usually spoken or cooed, Iqbal's lyrics are as easy to grab as an extended hand—especially if you're a 20-something in crisis. Besides love, Iqbal's lyrics are mostly about the pressure to achieve. On "Something More," she sings, "You live to die / the sky's too high." "Untitled Friday," a house track, overlays its silkiness with the fear of being unfulfilled. ("Passion is a flower / fear is right behind," she sings.) On the album's highlight, "Zone 1 To 6000," the lyrics ring true to any dreamer with a day job, rushing by with warm pads, glowing chord changes and the plushest of basslines. It's the most electric track Iqbal has ever done.
But sounding like a band also has its drawbacks. In Iqbal's case, it's because she doesn't always come close enough. The drums on some of the upbeat tracks lack a natural feel—something that's troubled Iqbal's records all along. Even if the shimmering reverb gives the veneer of guitar music's past, it's hard to really "rock out" to tracks like "Something More," "Saw U Twice" or "In Visions." They're dreamy sounding, but the rhythms are dry and rigid. The effect is atmosphere without a core.
This doesn't stop Weighing Of The Heart from being a nice album. With enough listens, you'll even catch yourself humming its melodies, but the ideas come close to feeling generic. In his criticism of Iqbal's last Ninja Tune EP, Andrew Ryce described it as "Throwing Shade by numbers"—that is, airy pop with a predictable approach. On this LP, guitar music provides a new direction, but not necessarily more impact.
01. Eden Piece
02. Something More
03. Saw U Twice
04. In Visions
05. Alone Together
06. Zone 1 to 6000
07. Feels So Right
08. New New Eyes
10. Eternal Passion
11. Untitled Friday