Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe (ATO) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Nilüfer Yanya

Miss Universe


May 10, 2019 Nilüfer Yanya Bookmark and Share

Nilüfer Yanya’s debut album Miss Universe begins with a phone message from the titular character, a fictional health counselor who periodically pops in to recite some postmodern mental-health non-sequiturs, voiced by Yanya herself. It’s an intriguing and well-written concept, but it does nothing to prepare one for the eclectic, polished (and decidedly less proggy than the concept and interludes suggest) set of songs. Instead, the slightly apocalyptic narrations and the confessional and beautiful synth-pop, R&B, and indie rock songs throughout this bold 17-track debut complement each other perfectly, making it the singer/songwriter album to beat in 2019.

The soulful downer sound of Yanya’s voice, not to mention the personal nature of her lyrics and her preferred guitar tone, belie her jazz-pop beginnings, but nearly everything beyond that point is progression and experimentation. She has a knack for knotty guitar arrangements not unlike Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. The lush production throughout, especially as the album progresses through its myriad sections is terrific. The use of horns, particularly the saxophone, throughout the jazzier tracks and the ‘80s-esque pop songs, is so nice. And though the album shifts into dream-pop mode more often than not, Yanya can really let it rip, such as the crunchy chords that begin the first non-intro song, the marvelous “In Your Head.” More of these rock-type songs are grouped in the first third of the album, with the anthemic “Baby Blu” signalling a shift into the smoother, more emotional and dreamy middle portion.

Actually, it’s the sequencing of Miss Universe where its true genius lies. Conceptually and instrumentally, the songs are grouped together and separated by short narrative interludes. This mostly works, like in the sublime pairing of the snappy indie pop track “Heat Rises” with the woozy ballad “Melt.” The longest stretch without an interlude is four tracks, right before the knockout finale “Heavyweight Champion of the Year,” and it’s the only part of the album where the momentum dips a bit. Even so, Miss Universe is a hell of a debut, with Yanya proving herself a powerhouse of songwriting especially, not to mention her pristine vocals and unique guitar voice. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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