London’s Eleni Drake returns this month with her sophomore EP, Songs On Sunday, a deeply personal record from one of the most exciting talents to emerge in the past year.
The influences of blues and jazz originators are written large across Drake’s brand of contemporary R&B, first unveiled on her fantastic EP, Blue, early last year. Her sombre tones and dusty breakbeats were given a warmth and richness by quiet piano lines, minimalist guitar strokes and crackling vintage production. This early promise has been built upon, working with influential songwriters including John Foyle (Years & Years, FKA Twigs), Freedo (Zara Larsson) and Jez Ashurst (Tom Walker) for her follow up EP.
A narrative carries through from Blue to Songs On Sunday, as Drake addresses the loss of a once cherished love. The same love that was the focus of ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Miami Queen’, the love which Drake had once found so challenging and yet all-consuming is now recognised for its reality as manipulative and harmful. This scorn reaches its apex on ‘4’, a defiant song of moving on, questioning why the love she gave “wasn’t enough” and finding strength in enjoying herself as the “sun still shines for me.” Before this point is reached there is a realisation of the impact of the relationship on ‘Untitled’, which acts a bridge between the two records, followed by powerful soul searching and self-exploration.
Intensely personally, the record still remains deeply relatable. Drake’s voice carries an authenticity and pain far beyond her years. ‘Trippy Tea’ addresses the manipulative nature of the relationship, portraying the confusion and self-doubt that arises, whilst ‘Velvet Mouth’ sees Drake opening up about her own mental health, and that of her once lover, addressing addiction and depression. The narrative songwriting of Drake and her collaborators is a marked strength of the record; natural and engaging, allowing listeners to reflect on their own experiences whilst being drawn into the story unfolding in the songs.
The production complements and enhances the lyrics, with the crackling reverb of ‘The Sun Don’t’ evoking the muddy mindstate of addiction and the sense of resolve reached by ‘Ceiling’ reflected in the most upbeat instrumental on the record. Luxurious is a strange word to use to describe the production ethos on an EP like Songs On Sunday, but there is a richness to the sound, as the influences of Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald are blended with more recent London icons such as Amy Winehouse. However, the tracks always remain muted enough to allow Drake’s soulful voice to dominate, increasing the intimacy and cohesion of the record. In doing so, the EP draws strong comparison with the final record from Mac Miller, Swimming, addressing heartbreak and mental health to a soundtrack of soul and blues.
Songs On Sunday stands as a mark of significant potential and a moment in itself, an artist ready to make her mark on the world with a sound that is both dusty with nostalgia and shining with modernity. Despite its dark subject matter, there are also signs of mainstream potential with her song construction and vocal delivery on ‘Untitled’ and ‘Ceilings’ placing Drake firmly amongst contemporaries such as Jorja Smith in an ever strengthening R&B landscape. Whilst listeners continue to enjoy Songs On Sunday, whenever Drake returns to the studio, we can only hope for her sake the positivity that closes this EP carries through into her next body of work.
Songs On Sunday is set for release on 25 May, and the lead singles are available for streaming HERE.