…music that is immersive, surprising, and always interesting, that makes this album (and Werup’s music in general) so rewarding.

Stunt Records: STUCD23052

Julia Werup: vocals; Svend Erik Lundeqvist: piano; Jonny Aman, Niclas Campagnol, Matthias Petri: bass; Thomas Blanchan: drums, programming; Andreas Kleerup: vocals

Recorded by Thomas Blachman at Fritz Juel Studio

Every so often a jazz singer turns up who not only knows the genre inside out but also has a desire to push it into different directions. On tracks such as ‘Time of Life’, track 6, ‘Rain’, track 3, ‘Together’, track 8, vocals are multi-tracked and distorted against shimmering electronic backdrops. On these tracks Werup and Blanchan create a unique sound that feels as if it takes inspiration from dance music (with a mixture of sounds that come from trip hop, or breaks) but is immersed in a jazz tradition. I’d like to hear an album that just focuses on this direction – perhaps increasing the bpm a little.

On the other hand, the album also includes some stunning examples of delicately noirish jazz. Her version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘He says he wants to kill us’ in her song ‘Just let him know you love him’, track 5, pits Werup’s moody vocals against a walking bass line. On this it feels as if she is not only celebrating one of music premier lyricists while emphasising the irony with which the words burst the ego of dictators and would-be dictators (how else to interpret the lyric ‘he says he wants to kill us / he says it very often / just let him know you love him / his attitude will soften’). There is an ambiguity in Werup’s delivery (here and on her excellent 2020 ‘The Thrill of Loving You’) that manages to make each line heavily ironic and deeply personal.

The experimentation of tracks 3, 6, and 8, is present, to a lesser but not less effective, extent on the opening track ‘No More Fuss’. Here, the slightly odd English (‘Oh, look what you’ve done to me / Empty words that you will remorse’) sits edgily on top of the music, the Werup giving her view of a complicated situation as both an impartial observer and emotionally centred narrator. A similar effect (from her delivery) is in ‘Bird’, the second track, in which a detailed story is presented (with the refrain ‘Bitch its hard work’ indicating the narrator’s point of view) but the listener is placed in the uncomfortable position of being judge and jury – with the musical accompaniment shifting between agonist and antagonist and making the decision tricky.

It is this ingenious ability to present emotionally complex situations in ways that challenge the listener into moral uncertainties, while also presenting music that is immersive, surprising, and always interesting, that makes this album (and Werup’s music in general) so rewarding.