Jessie Reyez looks to the long game. The Canadian artist may have garnered a Polaris nomination with her debut EP, but she’s never been content with the here and now – it’s the future that counts. Debut album ‘Before Love Came To Kill Us’ was the culmination of years of work, countless hours spent in the studio – it’s a shame, then, that it landed in the opening weeks of the global pandemic.
Looking back, the record was perhaps over-thought. Wonderfully creative, its sensational breadth was a showcase of her undoubted talents, but it spread the impact a little too widely. Shorn of the ability to tour, or really promote, the project, ‘Before Love Came To Kill Us’ didn’t achieve what it should have.
In that sense, ‘Yessie’ arrives with a point to prove. In a recent chat with Billboard the singer described the record as a debut in feeling, and she’s certainly on to something – both in intent and execution, ‘Yessie’ feels like Jessie Reyez distilled down to fine essence. ‘Mood’ is a biting opener, overhauling those R&B tropes for something venomous. Explicit early highlight ‘Queen St W’ is profoundly assertive, while ‘Hittin’ has this incredible late 90s feel – think a TLC deep cut and you won’t be far off.
‘Mutual Friend’ drops the tempo a little, with Jessie utilising this space for a fantastic, refulgent vocal. Ditto ‘I See You’, with its languid template – effects draped guitar lines, and little more – underpinning a lyric that plays with light and shade, with love and revenge.
‘Yessie’ is a record where the feelings sit close to the surface. ‘BMD’ throbs with lust, while ‘Emotional Damage’ teases with recovery; by the time ‘Adios’ comes into view, the breathless finale has you on the ropes, knocked to pieces by her passionate glovework.
A punchy 11 tracker which excises the breadth of her debut for something more succinct, ‘Yessie’ still finds space for subtle experimentation. Never an artist to walk in someone else’s shadow, Jessie Reyez emerges into the bright light of day on a scintillating record, one that gleams with ambition and refuses to linger on the past.
Words: Robin Murray