Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Nilufer Yanya – Baby Luv

“She grew up listening to Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Pixies and, unusually, you can hear traces of all three in her guitar-driven soul.” Unusual! Almost as unusual as this score for this week…


Crystal Leww: Nilufer Yanya cites The Strokes and The Libertines as influences, but I hear a Feist that believes in using her guitar as a percussive instrument. This is a positive — Feist somehow became underrated in the last decade — and hearing her influence on current guitar music makes me believe that we’re returning to an era where it doesn’t all sound the same.

Alfred Soto: Nilufer Yanya’s guitar technique is at least as interesting as Polly Jean Harvey, St. Vincent, and Marnie Stern’s: punctuative, terse. “Baby Luv” is hypnotic for a while, and I get the impression she came up with her punch lines for the sake of her strokes. 

Will Adams: Between being in love and being out, there’s a revolving door that spins rapidly. With its circular “again”s and see-sawing guitar figures, “Baby Luv” captures the feeling of being caught in it. It’s the feeling of seeing every positive and negative, every could-be and could-not flash by while you wonder where it’s going to spit you out. As the repetition goes on, the instruments pour in, until finally Yanya’s released from the torrent.

Julian Axelrod: In the death throes of a relationship, intimacy can feel like a chokehold. You start to savor moments alone, away from your lover’s suffocating touch. Even if that intimacy is shared with someone else, the anger far outweighs the envy. Nilufer Yanya’s breakout single zeroes in on this moment: When you’ve cried all your tears and loneliness turns back to solitude, you can embrace your newfound freedom and take joy in breaking your ex’s heart. Yanya’s kiss-off drips with earned sadism, from the pain refrain to the smirk in her voice to the teasing baby talk in the title. He may call her sometime, but she hung up long ago.

Josh Langhoff: It’s the unplugged version of those burbly Euro-synth tracks we’re so prone to covering! Abstracting syllables into syncopated chirps, Yanya and her guitar crescendo — sort of — into a meditation on pain and gain, the lack of which former shall proscribe the latter, and on how much she enjoys shaping her voice around both words.

Austin Brown: At first it seems too arch by half, but by the end of the track it coheres. The synth sheen grows subtly in tandem with Yanya’s molasses-thick vocal, justifying the stop-start guitar line and rendering it mesmerizing. Half the lyrics are muddled and confusing in their casual references to a “they,” a “him,” a “you,” and a “we” that never quite sort themselves out, but the other half are striking in their intimacy: most obviously “do you like pain” on the chorus, but just as much “so don’t act so surprised/when I know where you’ve been.” Obscurantism that signifies — what more could I ask for?

Katherine St Asaph: I’ll give her this: there is a build-up, tentative and tasteful as it may be. But I keep waiting for Yanya to turn the song over to Charly Bliss, who would crush it.

William John: No one needs me, per se, to tell you that love manifests in myriad ways – especially not when Nilüfer Yanya can do so with such adeptness in three and a half minutes. Yanya has opined that “Baby Luv” is “like one of those movies where there’s lots of different things happening at the same time”, and that multiplicity unfurls slowly and to staggering effect. Yanya understands love as a subtle tightrope; it is both the head rush that comes from standing on a cliff on a cold summer’s day, feeling the wind in your face and an invincible, incredible fullness, as it is the vehicle for desperate longing, metaphorical self-flagellation, and the kind of hopelessness that makes you stare into a fire while wearing a turtleneck, crying for what feels like an hour but is only actually a few minutes. That dichotomy will, unfortunately, almost always subsist, no matter how hard you work to disseminate it, and thus “do you like pain?”, repeated here like a mantra, serves as rhetoric rather than inquisition. These are big concepts for a song so sparse, but it turns out that sometimes, a few roughly hewn chords, some woody bass and an ascendance to head voice can momentarily suspend that emotional torment, even when it’s right there in your face, and bring you closer to that head rush than you ever thought possible.

Reader average: [8.33] (9 votes)

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