- On this heartfelt tribute to motherhood and friendship, Tirzah's vulnerable songwriting speaks volumes in near-whispers.
- In an interview with The FADER, Tirzah likened her music to an "organism." Her asymmetrical pop experiments breathe life into often overlooked forms of affection, focusing on those moments that happen between moments. A lot has changed for her since the release of her 2018 debut album, Devotion. She moved to the suburbs, quit her day job to pursue music full time, had two children and commenced work on a new album, Colourgrade. Motherhood and turbulent times both changed and grounded her in ways that make this new record feel like you're hearing Tirzah for the first time all over again. Where Devotion explored romantic love in motion, Colourgrade explores platonic love in stillness. Where Devotion was light and feathery, Colourgrade is haunting and visceral. She sounds wiser, more assured, laser-focused on what matters most.
Part of what makes Tirzah's work so compelling is her reluctance to attach too much meaning to it all. "The generosity of music is that you can take it as you want," she said in that same interview. With its abstract lyricism and subtle accents, Colourgrade is like a painting that takes on a different meaning every time you look at it. At its core this is fundamentally pop music, but the colours are all a little different than you'd expect, the shapes thrillingly loose. Tracks like the Dean Blunt co-produced "Recipe" are spacious and hazy, as Tirzah's vocals waft through them like dry ice vapour. (The same might be said for the dreamy "Crepuscular Rays," but its wordless six minutes go on for a little too long.)
Each track offers faraway glimpses into private feelings, like watching shadows from behind the other side of a curtain. The subtle funk on "Tectonic"—with its steamy undertones and almost telepathic intimacy—feels disarmingly real, almost voyeuristic, with an ASMR-tingling vocal delivery. Elsewhere, the hypnotic guitar riff and lullaby cadence of "Sleeping" paint the precious image of a mother singing her child to sleep.
This cozy, homespun energy manifests in even subtler ways, like the coughing at the start of "Beating," or the nonchalant humming in "Tectonic." These are the kinds of noises you'd expect to hear from someone while washing up the dishes, a sonic vulnerability mirrored by vulnerable writing. Nearly every song overflows with expressions of gratitude and protective oaths for her loved ones. "I can't teach you / I can guide you to / Or at least try to," she vows on "Recipe," one of the most touching songs on the album. Tirzah accepts that she can't be omnipotent as a parent, but vows to do her best either way.
As with Devotion, Mica Levi plays a key role on production here. (Kwes and visual director Leah Walker are also key contributors and longtime friends.) Sonically, Colourgrade is a moonlit dreamscape where the electronic and acoustic merge. Gentle guitars, vintage keys and droney synths hang back like ghosts in the room as Tirzah's singing takes centre stage. "Hive Mind," a duet with Coby Sey, is a gorgeous highlight, with one of the many large-risk, large-reward production flourishes on Colourgrade: in the background glitchy cries muddy the waters, while Tirzah and Sey remain undisturbed. It's a moment that implies kinship through trials and tribulation. Having exclusively friends and family on the album only adds to its close-knit feeling. All of this makes it feel like a privilege to be part of Tirzah's world. Her records are a beautiful, once-in-a-blue-moon listening experience.
Colourgrade's artwork is a shot of Tirzah holding a children's picture book so colourful that it almost appears luminous. In photography, "colour-grading" is the process of enhancing the colour in an image to capture any colours the initial photograph may have missed. Tirzah's songwriting adds these same hidden shades to everyday experiences. Take "Beating," when she remarks on the sound of her child's heartbeat. She shows gratitude for a micro-moment that many others might take for granted, pulling us in with two lines: "We made life / It's beating." In just a near-whisper, you grasp the gravity and weight of everything she feels.
02. Hive Mind (feat. Coby Sey)
06. Crepuscular Rays
07. Send Me
08. Sink In