Snoh Aalegra is Refined with Soul Masterpiece Ugh, Those Feels Again
Evan Dale // Aug 15, 2019
Emotion is an absolute bitch, but when harvested by the right hands it becomes art. From the most trying to the most sensual of Summer nights, thank the seasons for Snoh.
The Swedish soulstress has been on tear of silky deliveries in 2019, preparing her ever-expanding, loyal audience for a genre-bending vocal exhibition the likes of which is nearly impossible to compare without mentioning some of the rangiest singers and songwriters through soul’s history. On a modern scale – one as wide as any other stylistic epoch – even names like Daniel Caesar, Nao, Brent Faiyaz, and Sabrina Claudio have a hard time achieving the highs and lows that Snoh Aalegra so smoothly does sonically and emotionally.
-Ugh, Those Feels Again could not be more aptly named.
Snoh Aalegra could not be more underrated. But that’s changing fast.
Her 2017 debut album, FEELS was an introduction rarely paralleled in its trend-setting eventuality. The project’s exposure and popularity have grown linearly – perhaps exponentially of late – since its release. FEELS has flowered hand-in-hand with music’s most retro-nuanced modern path, mirroring the rise of neo-soul and R&B’s transcendent grey areas. The lane is paved of analogue instrumentation bleeding seamlessly into current production techniques; where explorations of love and loss stand on equal ground with sex.
Dichotomy – duality – juxtaposition form the trio of adjectives most attached to Snoh Aalegra’s unique spin on it all. Old and new, soul and R&B, love and lust, high and low. Everything she does is in balance.
Where FEELS was groundbreaking, and years later its influence is clear, -Ugh, Those Feels Again is a thesis on making sense of emotion in an era finally primed for Snoh Aalegra’s henceforth timelessness.
Towards its drop, four single releases set the stage for an incredibly wide-ranging sound focused almost entirely on a single theme: you. The intimacy of the first three – I Want You Around, You, & Someone Like You – was hard to avoid. A sense of personal connection set Snoh apart in her ability to jive with an emotion-ridden audience while the fourth single, Situationshipdove into relatability and humor of romantic uncertainty and made her even more palatable. And yet, even though one figure in her life – not you and not I – seems to have been the greater inspiration behind all of her songwriting, Snoh Aalegra always sounds as if she’s singing just to us.
Her low-fidelity, jazz club signature has a lot to do with that intimacy. Imperfection floods her low register with raw relatability while her crystalline highs breathe nearly every bit as fervently of emotion and seduction. Just listening to the explosions of bellowing emotionality and piercing melody make niceties in the closing choir breakdown of Find Someone Like You, the wavering chorus on Love Like That, or the introductory bridge on Be Careful puts on display Snoh Aalegra’s unparalleled knack at self-harmonizing. The result can at times feel reminiscent of a listener’s own dualistic tendencies when working through emotions, granting her a delicate pedestal from which she can discuss emotional soundscapes with clarity.
Instrumentally and in production, -Ugh, Those Feels Again brings to mind visions of a smoky speakeasy where our silky protagonist performs only with a microphone, a piano, and a talented supporting jazz trio. An affinity for classic keys (Here Now, I Want You Around, Find Someone Like You, Love Like That) which throughout the project effortlessly trade places with 80’s-inspired watery synth strokes (Toronto, Be Careful, You, Njoy) drive a primary vibe. Beneath them, simplistic drums, experimental production (Whoa, Charleville 9200 Pt. ll ,I Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love) and funky basslines (Peace) provide the project’s undeniable danceability. -Ugh, Those Feels Again is wide-ranging and brashly experimental, but Snoh Aalegra’s knack at oozing effortlessness grants it its deceptively simplistic undertones while drawing its breadth akin.
Somewhere triangulated between her seemingly easy-going demeanor, her ability to thrive within an auditory aesthetic sans epochal bounds, and her knack at weaving painfully relatable tales of love, lust, and loss, exists a sound incomparable to any other artist past or present. Snoh Aalegra draws from hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, funk, and jazz; she draws from Motown, 70’s funk, and 90’s R&B; but her sound is always adjusting per the expectation of transcendent artistry in the modern era. -Ugh, Those Feels Again is an obvious image of growth from an artist whose limelight growth itself now seems unstoppable. It’s a refined take on FEELS where neo-soul’s affinity for organic instrumentation takes center stage in balance with future R&B’s vision of a high-fidelity, emotive effervescence. She has mastered many sounds and with -Ugh, Those Feels Again definitely outlines one all her own.
And her sound is now defining of myriad stylistic spectrums of which neo-soul and R&B may be the obvious delineations, but all of music in an era of post-genrefication undoubtedly owes thanks in her direction.
At the helm of Snoh Aalegra’s powerful understanding of emotion and soul -Ugh, Those Feels Again at times is so strong that it takes an toll on its listener, but it’s a breath of fresh air to music as a whole. For that, and for so many other reasons, it’s a masterpiece.