Acclaimed Georgian-British Singer-Songwriter's First Full-Length Release Since 2016's In Winter features Production by Leo Abrahams and Represents the Culmination of a Prolonged Period of Musical Rediscovery!
A gloriously cinematic exploration of love, with lyrics written by acclaimed Georgian-British singer-songwriter Katie Melua, and production by Leo Abrahams – Album No. 8 is a true tour-de-force of artistic and lyrical maturity. It's impossible to miss the sense that this is someone enjoying new ways to address the complexities of pop's oldest subject matter. Deploying the narrative vernacular of some of the folk songs she'd recently discovered ("His wife's hair had golden ripples/she's in a painting with a mulberry tree when"), "English Manner" is one of a number of songs on the record co-written with bassist and long-time collaborator Tim Harries, and sees Melua sidestepping the common lyrical tropes of love triangle songs. What plays out here is more allusive and ambiguous than anything that involves assigning the roles of victim and a victor.
On an album where romantic idealism doesn't get much of a look-in, the mood is established at the outset by lead single and album opener "A Love Like That." Co-written with Sam Dixon (Christina Aguilera, Adele), it's a song that asks how you can ensure that the elemental thrill of new love can keep burning brightly through the decades. With a low weather front of strings circling ominously over a soft, supple acoustic funk, "A Love Like That" is also the song which most dramatically sets out the musical parameters of Album No. 8. Melua says, "This song is asking the essential timeless question about mad love, ‘How do you make a love like that last?' But before it became about love between a couple, it started its life centred on my relationship with work and the stamina required to keep being an artist in the music industry. It was only after my co-composer Sam Dixon and I wrapped our session, that I retreated to a cottage in the Cotswolds for 3 weeks to wrestle with the song's lyrics. ‘A Love Like That' continues a narrative that is across the new album. And in the context of love - it is about having the courage to speak openly and freely."
Either by serendipity or design, the deft orchestral shadowplay of Abrahams' arrangements created an apposite setting for some of the album's more magical detours: the balmy syncopations of "Voices In The Night" and "Heading Home" – a heart-swelling paean to the streets where the erstwhile Ketevan Melua spent her first years. Calling to mind the twilit rapture of John Barry's work on Dances With Wolves and The Beyondness of Things, "Leaving The Mountain" was inspired by a trip that Melua and her father took to the Caucasus mountains by the Black Sea. "It was a moment of pure contentment," recalls Melua, "But there's a necessary sadness to those moments too. We were listening to a playlist of songs mentioned in the Dylan book and were looking at this amazing scenery – and, in all likelihood, we knew that we'd probably never get around to experiencing it together again."
On another of the album's standout songs, "Maybe I Dreamt" (co-written with Katie's brother Zurab), Melua pays tribute to Pina Bausch, the hugely influential German choreographer who revolutionized modern dance from the 1970s onwards. "I was watching footage of an interview with her," recalls Melua, "[Bausch] is doing her dance movements and the horse seems to be, in quite a magical way, interacting with her. So she does a movement, and the horse copies it. Then it cuts to her, years later, recalling this experience. And then she says this line... ‘Maybe I dreamt it.' There's something mesmerising about the way she says it. And that set the tone for the entire song."