Yola: Stand For Myself (Easy Eye Sound) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, May 18th, 2024  


Stand For Myself

Easy Eye Sound

Jul 29, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Upon the release of her critically-acclaimed 2019 solo debut Walk Through Fire, refreshingly imaginative, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Yola had been present, in some form or another, for nearly two decades. Initially affiliated with several groups, most notably British electronic outfit Massive Attack, she began pursuing a solo career after an extended hiatus following the death of her mother. Re-emerging in 2016 as a contemporary harbinger of vintage soul, Yola garnered enthusiastic acclaim for her ingenious blend of the Memphis and Nashville sounds, cloaked in a blanket of authentic Americana pop.

On Stand For Myself, the Bristol native moves away from the country influences found on Walk Through Fire, opting instead for a fuller-bodied vibe melded with elements of R&B, funk, orchestral pop, and disco. This approach works in her favor, as her smooth vocals and expert songwriting skills maintain a sense of sincerity throughout the album’s run, keeping it far enough from feeling derivative or clichéd. Stand For Myself certainly owes a debt to the classics, but Yola is a sufficiently forward thinking artist existing out of time in a world of her own.

Everything happening in pop music during the late 1960s and early ’70s finds a welcoming home on Stand For Myself. The careful attention Yola pays to detail is impressively revealed on “Barely Alive,” the album’s richly-layered opener, on which Yola sings of collective struggle and the resulting pursuit of liberation, inquiring of the listener, “When will we start living?” Key track “Dancing Away In Tears” sounds so authentic that one might assume it to have been recorded in 1970, rather than 2020, while the infectiously danceable “Diamond Studded Shoes” calls for an uprising against the powers that be. The timely “Be My Friend” is a fervent cry for unity among the downtrodden, spotlighting the fierce power of Yola’s vocals. Elsewhere, the heartfelt “Great Divide” cuts deeply, and the soulful groove of the passionately physical “Starlight” leads the listener on a cosmic trip to the heart of human desire.

Blissful romantic ballad “Now You’re Here” conjures Blue Magic and related artists of the decade, suggesting some of Stand For Myself’s possible influences, as well as confirming that Yola can hold her own alongside the greats. The twangy country rock-tinged “Whatever You Want” is a brief detour into territory explored on Walk Through Fire, and the album’s explosive title track serves as a fitting grand finale, balancing intimate subtlety and dynamic confidence as Yola celebrates the notion of individualism in a manner that only an artist of her depth could.

Stand For Myself hangs together more cohesively than Walk Through Fire, feeling more urgent and existing upon a grander scale than its predecessor. Yola is a force to be reckoned with—an innovative artist more interested in continuing the development of music’s most sublime sounds, as opposed to dismissing them as mere relics of a bygone era. All-in-all, this is a masterful album about personal identity and independence during a crucial time. Both of these themes grow stronger in Yola as she continues to innovate in her corner of popular music. Sleek, soulful, intricate, and anthemic, Stand For Myself serves as evidence that in her life, Yola may have loved and lost, but through her art, she has everything to gain. (www.iamyola.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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