With an ambitious concept album as her debut, English singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya set herself up for a sophomore slump due to the high expectations for the eclectic young artist. The dynamic thrills of 2019’s Miss Universe understandably overshadow PAINLESS, which sustains its mood throughout rather than ride the rollercoaster of emotions she is known to convey in her music. In an attempt to focus herself, Yanya gets bogged down in the details and loses the depth and excitement of her early music in favor of music that is easier to consume.
Nilüfer Yanya always leaned heavily towards the cloudy guitar-based indie music of King Krule, and on PAINLESS takes the route of an even more ethereal and effect-heavy pallette. Rewarded for her daring elements on Miss Universe, she plays it too safe with a desire to appeal to the masses on her follow-up. An exciting punch in the introduction will quickly fade into soft blandness like on “shameless” and “chase me;” the constant pulses on songs like “belong with you” similarly needed to have a more invested Yanya at the helm. With a handful of exceptions, she does not give that extra required to get each track to new heights beyond their initial groove.
The Verdict on ‘PAINLESS’
A couple of standout singles like “the dealer” and “midnight sun” illustrate that Nilüfer Yanya can still reach towards the opposite ends of the spectrum. However, all 12 tracks on PAINLESS blend into a hair too much sonic monotony, without the same gripping performance that graces the similar music of her peers. It’s a shame because a close listen reveals the production depths reached by Yanya's new and returning collaborators like Wilma Archer. With this minor setback, her third album is now even more anticipated, as the world eagerly waits to see how she can revitalize her performance back to the early days.