Born and raised in Co Galway, 24 year old Laura Sheeran has been writing, recording and gigging since 2007. In that time she has given birth to various soundtracks for both theatre and film, released a series of videos she has filmed in tandem with her music and become involved in various music projects including Nanu Nanu, RESOUND and Fovea Hex. Nanu Nanu, in particular, have been tagged as ‘ones to watch’ by many involved with the Irish music scene.
Laura’s new solo album What the World Knows occupies a sonic landscape of dark electronica, adventurous and bold yet stunningly successful. A roller-coaster of emotion and originality delivered with a transparent confidence. At first it can be quite a tough listen but the more in-tune you become with what Sheeran is trying to project, the easier it becomes to unwind and digest.
Album opener ‘What the World Knows’ might have thrown me from that start. A particular choice to open proceedings as it’s probably the weakest of the ten tracks. However, from here on in is where the magic starts to show.
‘Redlight’ is the first indication that Sheeran means business. The broken rhythm, the lack of anything that even resembles an instrument all wrapped in a wiry, chant-like delivery. A song about women being violated in the red light district? A song about a relationship that isn’t working / unsuitable? I guess in this case it’s up to the listener to decide as Sheeran doesn’t give away too much. A theme that runs brilliantly through out the album.
‘Forever Love’ highlights the most gorgeous vocal take on the album, proving that Sheeran’s tender side works equally as well. This is the closest we get to anything conventional in both structure and idea, as from there we jump back on the roller-coaster. What follows is Sheeran laying on a fine vocal display in the swirling ‘Until Danger’s Gone’. Here, the string sections are fantastically scored, floating perfect, yet lazy at the verse’s end. ‘Lonesome Soldier’ is a hypnotic ride of two chords and a vocal, and once latched on to, changes when you least expect.
The song climaxes with what could only be described as a broken computer loop, the first indication that anything goes.
One thing I really love about this album is that Sheeran has some absolutely bonkers ideas. There is a lot to be said for no drums or percussion, no guitars or piano, the important thing is how to utilize that space and with what? Listening carefully, it’s tough to make out exactly what you’re listening to. Is it a broken computer? Is it distorted xylophone? Whatever most of it is, it doesn’t really matter because yet again, although bravely adventurous, Sheeran makes it all fit flawlessly. I wonder if it’s experimentation? or if the final product is a concoction of brilliantly envisioned sounds and moods that has come to fruition?
The string scoring shines yet again on ‘Live Long’ before we arrive seamlessly with the haunting ‘Death of a Star’. (I was so engulfed by this stage I thought that ‘Live Long’ and ‘Death of a Star’ were the same song.) Again thinking “fucking brilliant” out loud as the strings floated so seamlessly into the church organ. One song or not, it was made up for the placement of the album opener. The folk harp offering of ‘Hurricane’ is another album highlight, bringing to mind the fantastic Natasha Khan and the possibility of witnessing this music live in person.
Maybe a venture to do would answer all of my questions. Who is Laura Sheeran? Why and how did she make such an incredibly unique and refreshing Irish record? Maybe the relocation from Galway to Dublin has awoken the beast? I’ll never know unless I go, and that I will.
The album is a tough one to get your head around at first but once the sheer brilliance of Sheeran’s creativity is uncovered you’ll fall in love.
Believe me, after many a try, I took her album, and I gave her a twirl and I lost my heart to a Galway Girl.
Laura Sheeran plays Whelan’s, Dublin, Sat May 19th