- Sweet and personal pop vignettes built on breakbeats.
- Nia Archives's "(Over)Thinking" has the hallmarks of a bonfire singalong: warm guitar strums on the upbeat, lovestruck lyrics ("Thinking of you / So much thinking that it's got me blue.") The Leeds-born, London-based 20-year-old quickly takes things in another direction, pairing her gentle coo and tender chords with the frenetic energy of jungle breaks, combining soulful lyricism with the hardcore continuum.
Headz Gone West, Nia Archives' debut EP, is a stunning collection of pop songs as filtered through the eyes and ears of someone raised on soundsystem culture. As an alumnus of DJ Flight's EQ50 mentorship, the most pronounced connection is to jungle (even the video for "Crossroads" references Goldie's "Inner City Life"), but we also also get dubstep (check that womp on "Sober Feels") and grime ("Don't Kid Urself"). Her vocal range is just as wide-ranging and impressive as her musical taste. You can hear everything from vintage Nicolette on tracks like "Crossroads" to the jazzy retro-soul of Amy Winehouse on "Sober Feels." The song sounds like it could've been written by the late singer had she attended a few Metalheadz nights: "I don't like how sober feels / Because each day for me it feels oh so real / I know I should take some time to heal."
Another key inspiration seems to be the early '90s label and collective Shut Up And Dance, of which Nicolette was a member. On "Headz Gone West," for example, Archives layers liquid chords over lo-fi jungle breaks, singing an ode to getting high. And she forays into vintage grime on "Don't Kid Urself," which is meaner than the rest of the tracks, a reprisal to a "baby boy" that feels like it's just getting going when it ends just past the three-minute mark. The entire EP is all too brief at just 14 minutes—the runtime on any of these tracks could be doubled and we'd still be asking for another minute or two.
What's most remarkable about this record is how Archives crafts songs that are dense with references to the history of Black British music, but also straightforward, delicate and intimate. This accessibility is what makes the EP such an effective piece of pop music, in addition to dance music wizardry. From the moment you hit play, you'll be struck by the way Archives can bring together everything good about both pop and the underground in these poignant evocations of youth.
01. Headz Gone West
04. Sober Feels
05. Don't Kid Urself