Imelda May has undergone a major revamp in more ways than just her new look. The charming Dubliner has given us a soulful collection of new music in the form of her latest album Life. Love. Flesh. Blood. This is her fifth album and its fifteen tracks show us a new side to May – a mature elegance that was not quite as apparent in her previous material. That’s not to say May and her music are only now becoming mature or elegant, however this new material takes her in this direction more so than ever. We as listeners, get an insight into the singer’s personal life and the tragic, emotional challenges that come with growing up and parting with a lover. May is stripped back and vulnerable, leaving her rockabilly days behind.
May’s sultry new style brings with it a genre-spanning album incorporating jazz, blues and gospel. Life. Love. Flesh. Blood is chock full of show-stopping tunes and collaborations, namely Jeff Beck’s guitar skills on the powerful ballad that is ‘Black Tears’. To choose a favourite track on this record is no easy task, however there are a few stand-outs that will leave May’s beautiful voice ringing in your ears for hours, days, even weeks after.
Opening track ‘Call Me’ is one of these tracks and sets the album up for just over an hour of smooth, soulful listening. It’s slow and sensitive and tells the all too relatable tale of yearning for a lover – not an uncommon theme in the history of songwriting. However, May’s gentle vocals and the sincerity in her voice will make your heart break; “Don’t you miss me? Don’t you need me? Don’t you leave me this way”. We’ve all been there and May encompasses this heartache in this beautiful and understated song.
Next on the track list is single ‘Black Tears’ which starts off slowly and builds up to a belter of a chorus where May takes the opportunity to show off her vocal range, quickly slipping back into the slow, steady rhythm of the verse. This is perfectly complimented by doo-wop backing vocals and Beck’s guitar that seems to lament the pure sorrow and longing conveyed through the lyrics.
‘Should Have Been You’ is the latest single from the album and while it carries on with the main theme of the album – heartbreak – it does so in an upbeat, bouncy manner. The beat is choppy and fun and those smooth backing vocals we heard in previous tracks make an appearance again, making this the most poppy track of the lot.
Life. Love. Flesh. Blood is one of those albums where not only will you not want to skip any tracks, but many are tunes to stick on repeat all day. This moody, soulful side to Imelda May has given us her finest work to date. The songwriting is top class and combined with the musical arrangements and vocal talent – this is a personal contender for the best Irish album of the year so far.