Jessie Ware’s third album ‘Glasshouse’ promised to break the glass ceiling, but instead finds the singer treading lukewarm water.
Taking time off after having her first child, the South London singer returned to the studio last year, recruiting a broad spread of collaborators that veer from pop talent Nina Nesbitt to The Invisible’s Dave Okumu, dance don Two Inch Punch and two (ex) members of The Maccabees.
Sadly, ‘Glasshouse’ isn’t quite as varied as its stellar cast might suggest. As a whole, it fails to move past the ground established on Jessie Ware’s opening two albums, and at its weakest moments surrenders to beige – albeit slick – soul.
‘Midnight’ is a stellar opening track, deeply atmospheric and boasting a subtly layered arrangement, packed with aural Easter Eggs. ‘Your Domino’ ups the tempo slightly, the coy snare cracks matched against the jaunty synth and rock solid bass.
‘Selfish Love’ picks apart the intricacies of a troubled relationship, the latin-flavoured rhythm aided by the occasional flash of flamenco guitar as Jessie Ware’s vocal swings between pleading for forgiveness and relishing in wrongdoing.
Too often, though, ‘Glasshouse’ fails to challenge itself. ‘Alone’ is sparse to the point of becoming maudlin, while ‘Finish What We Started’ is incredibly slick, the 80s styled production lingering on the border of pastiche.
But it’s not a failure. Even at her most unchallenging Jessie Ware remains a stellar vocalist, but that’s precisely the problem; she rarely feels challenged. The album’s undoubted high point is the finale, with ‘Sam’ finding the London artist dwelling on love, faith, marriage, and impending motherhood.
It’s simple, touching, and profoundly effective, the slightest of brass tones echoing against hushed backing vocals. It’s a profound song about doubt, on an album that suffers from feeling just too assured.
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