Although occasionally lacking in both clarity and lyrical depth, its jazzy flares and spritely voice form a thoroughly enjoyable set of tracks.
There’s something remarkably refreshing about a 22-year-old who is as comfortable orchestrally covering Edith Piaf records from 1957 as she is talking to interviewers about enjoying worm-laced tequila. Izzy Bizu’s sound is a gorgeous homage to that bygone era of soul, with backing tracks built for the roar of a big band with their precise jazzy flickers and sporadic bursts of substantial percussion. Even in the moments that feature utterly indecipherable vocals – whether through dropped syllables on ‘Naïve Soul’ and ‘What Makes You Happy’ or because, like ‘White Tiger,’ the sounds she’s making are nothing more than vague attempts at actual sentences – the package feels well-rounded and zesty.
That latter track has been given various releases since its appearance on 2013’s Coolbeanz EP and it’s no surprise that it keeps getting pushed: by far the most explicitly pop-minded record here, its sea of gibberish on a bed of grandiose piano triples challenges you to the impossible task of escaping. Others don’t have the same potency in their hooks (though the opening five tracks do their utmost to throw their titles at you, sporting them at least four times per refrain) but can capture more varied influences than the simple Nina Simones and Amy Winehouses that you might expect, layering strings over bluesy riffs and employing choral self-harmony.
The seven-piece band that accompanies her through the record does feel a little small at times – ‘What Makes You Happy’ feels a little bit like Sam Brown’s Jamelia-covered ‘Stop’ if it lost a little bit of the surging instrumentation behind it – but on tracks like ‘Skinny’ and opener ‘Diamond,’ on which the colourful layering of twangy parts expertly shadows one of Bizu’s strongest and most prominent vocal performances, arrangements cannot really be faulted. Even when horns come into play, the jazziness is far from overbearing, and the more rocky pair of ‘Naïve Soul’ and ‘Adam & Eve’ shortly before the halfway point are defiant punches that show a completely different performer to the one that starts the self-deprecating ‘Circles’ with an unaccompanied “I never felt so weak and special at the same time.”
In Bizu’s mind, A Moment Of Madness is about being a little bit scruffy – or, in her words, “a bit of a space chicken” – but little of that feeling applies to the music itself, with only her occasionally wavering upper range providing any hindrance. Regularly caught in the firing euphoria of love with odd but calm pleas for support on ‘Diamond,’ – “Take me to the promised land / Unleash me while I’m standing here / Yeah, I really do believe that there’s more than just this universe and you and me,” the first words on the record, set a wonderful tone – and ‘Gorgeous,’ the album finds countless ways to feel nostalgic yet delightfully modern without giving in to the oh-so-trendy mopey electronification of the soul.
A Moment Of Madness is released on September 2nd by Epic Records