Track Review: Noralyn- Masquerade











Masquerade is available at:

RELEASED: 5th July, 2015



Brisbane, Australia

TODAY my mind is focused on a number of different subjects and ideas…

My discourse and consideration is towards Australia and their music; female singers- and the tabloidisation of Pop music- and the state of modern Pop music.  At the moment, a lot of attention is coming from the U.S. and U.K.: the media is still focused wholly on these narrow shores; tending to push their home-grown first and foremost- missing out on a lot of talent.  One of my favourite reviews was for Anna von Hausswolff- a Swedish singer and artist- and her incredible music.  With a voice like Kate Bush; songs that look at death and mortality; compositions that present sweeping strings and funeral organs; epic introductions and stunning moments, I was blown away.  Again, the likes of The Updraft Imperative (Australia), Say Lou Lou (Australia/Sweden) and Little Dove (U.S.A.) are among my highlights- all based away from the U.K.  In Australia, the music hubs seem to be Melbourne and Sydney (the former particularly); few media eyes tend to cast themselves towards the likes of Brisbane- where my subject emanates from.  The capital of Queensland, the city is a bustling city: nearly a third of the population emanate from overseas; the climate is hot and sunny (in the summer); the landscape gorgeous- a hotbed for art and science.  A city that deserves wider acclaim, it houses a lot of culture and diversity.  Based away from Melbourne (Brisbane and Queensland) play second-fiddle somewhat- gaining a smaller market-share of attention.  When you look at Australia, there is a lot of great music coming out: some terrific Hard-Rock bands; some fascinating Electro.-Pop artists- a lot of range and surprise.  Compared to the U.S. and U.K., there is less consistency and choice- having fewer than 22 million people in the country- in Australia.  Eyes and minds tend to look at traditional Australian artists: the likes of INXS, Silverchair, Wolfmother and Tame Impala- there is a lot of focus on the bands of the nation.  When it comes to solo acts, there is Kylie Minogue and Gabriella Cilmi- both born in Melbourne.  Away from the populous cities; separated from the obvious climates, you get some great acts- Noralyn is one such example.  Making sure eyes turn to Brisbane, she is one of the hottest and most distinct artists to come out of Australia: with a sound/genre-fuse that sounds U.S.-made, she has retained her native voice- making her music sound popular, yet very much her own.  Her Pop-cum-Electro. fusings are gaining a lot of attention.  I shall mention her voice (and its potency) later, but I want to look at Pop and the female-led Pop scene.  Noralyn has spent time in England: she was awarded a scholarship to study classical piano, before moving to Brisbane fairly recently.  The love of Kate Bush and Tori Amos comes through in her performances/vocals; her love of Pop and Classical music blends into her music- creating something quite special and uplifting.  With evocative and scenic lyrics, her music is stunning in its breadth and effect.  When I look at the modern Pop scene- and the mainstream acts we have- there are few that really stand out; not many that really lodge in the mind- perhaps they are lurking in the realms of new music/unsigned territory.  If you think of (the likes of) Lucy Rose- representing the bland and mediocre crop of singer-songwriters- it is quite depressing and forgettable.  The best results come when you go beyond the bland: tie in Electro. edges and classical themes; go beyond the acoustic-led sameness that pervades the scene.  There are some terrific female singer-songwriters in the U.K. (and further afield) yet there is still that leaning towards the band market: the public purse is more readily available to them (than solo acts).  One problem- that accounts for the bad press solo artists gets- is the tabloidisation of the scene.  Barely a week goes by without Iggy Azalea feuding with someone; Rhianna baring her breasts; Sarah Harding causing embarrassment- nothing to do with the music; more to do with politics and scandal.  It is a pity, because great artists are being overlooked; the art of music-making is being forgotten- replaced by tittle-tattle and needless celebrity gossip.  For those willing to do their research; put the effort in and look further afield- gems and treasures can be discovered.  Noralyn is a fascinating example: one of the most compelling artists I have come across.  Based away from the U.K. - which, in itself, provides me some relief and excitement- her music is arresting and captivating.  Not only does that voice hit you hard- with its mixture of quirkiness, sweetness and huge power- but her music too: she is 24, yet has a maturity few of her peers possess; a pen that is sharp yet vulnerable- her latest track has popular appeal, whilst remaining hugely credible and uncompromising.  Few of us would look to Brisbane- when it comes to seeking some great new sounds- yet Noralyn could start a trend: with the likes of The Updraft Imperative putting the area in focus, we need to change our habits; get away from the tried-and-tested areas/sites; look across the world- only then will you really discover something fresh and different.

It is hard to compare Masquerade (with any previous Noralyn work); as this is really her first out-and-out solo move.  The young Australian has recorded music- a charity E.P. included in the list- but here she is out on her own- and beginning with a bang.  In that respect, the best thing to do is look around for comparable (artists) - give you an idea of who inspires her.  Tori Amos and Kate Bush are names that will be bandied about: when it comes to unique and striking, there are few better names.  Noralyn has that sense of individuality and appeal: her tones are not ordinary and boring; there is that child-like innocence; belting and emphatic moments- together with some U.S. /U.K. tones.  In terms of albums- from Amos and Bush- I would mention Little Earthquakes (Amos’ debut) and Never for Ever (Bush’s third album).  Amos broke onto the scene with her debut: filled with beautiful and emotive numbers, Amos introduced a new way of singing- bringing so many emotions to every song on the record.  Sexy and haunting; innocent and powerful- the album mingled a host of themes and concerns.  Buh’s third album saw (the British icon) find her voice; become more confident and stable- the singing style was theatrical and tailored; more controlled and focused.  The songs (within the album) saw seriousness and romance come under the microscope: there was never a sense of flightiness or loss of control; it remains a focused and subtle (by Bush’s standards) L.P.  Noralyn fuses and overlaps the two albums.  She takes some of Amos’ diversity and range- on her single, there is seriousness and innocence; her voice sounds both fragile and strong- and Bush’s song-craft- with a little dabble of her acrobatics into the mix.  Not to say her song (and future works) could match these albums- there is no reason to suggest they couldn’t- but the earlier indicators are positive- Masquerade is a confident song that never lets up; offer so much colour and contour- with some black-and-white seriousness and maturity.

Quite dark and serious keys (greet in Masquerade).  Sounding Classical and focused, it grips you from the very first notes.  Noralyn’s breathless vocals come in and give the song a sense of etherealness and movement- sounding a little like a cross between Lana Del Rey and Tori Amos.  The song begins quite measured and restrained: our heroine makes sure her messages resonate; that the notes hit the mark- rather than let it all rush by.  Focusing on an unnamed subject- or perhaps aimed at those who cover their feelings- there is a sense of secrecy and closed-off emotions.  Where the wreckage is swept away “underneath the carpet” (the song’s subject) is putting on a brave face- or perhaps just not confronting things.  Whether a personal insight- Noralyn projecting a venerable and hurt side- or towards a particular friend, I am not sure- what is certain is the sense of emotion and urgency.  Even in the initial stages- where things are quite down-beat and introverted- there is that pressing passion; the voice quivers and resounds- the keys are impressively firm and striking.  Just before a new thought is introduced, there is a musical build-up: a muscular percussion beat bonds with rising keys; the mood swells and envelops- before our heroine comes back to the microphone.  It seems that- whether speaking to herself or her subject- nobody wants to “see you cry”- there is that need to suppress feelings and keep up pretence.  With her voice cracking and gliding- in an Amos-esque bout of expression and verve- the chorus comes into play.  Our heroine would rather believe a “pretty lie”; tonight begins the masquerade- the images and sense of mystery heightens.  To my mind- my perceptions can be lead astray somewhat- I was thinking of a relationship; maybe bonds have been strained- our heroine having to keep her emotions buried.  Maybe a plea (to a friend or associate) you get the sense of doomed love: two parties at odds; fractions and dislocation- masks being worn; truths being withheld.  Keeping the composition energised and hypnotic, the piano strides and gallops; the percussion punches forth- a perfect setting against Noralyn’s vocals.  The vocals in question crackle and shiver; they tremble and rise- operatic and grand yet filled with emotion.  If you watch the song’s video (on YouTube) our heroine wears a mask; set against a row of lights, she can be seen sat at her piano; pounding the keys- giving a focused gaze to the camera.  Many songs have been written- with regards repressed feelings and lies- yet Noralyn imbues Masquerade with her own ideals- her choice of words and imagery are vivid and enlivening.  Finding a poker face “to hide behind”, that tensions mounts: the feeling damage is irrevocable.  Augmenting the composition, the listener gets drawn into things: that insistent and gripping voice gets into your head; takes you away- you are powerless to resist.  In the same way as debut album-era Tori Amos (mixed the deeply personable with variegated vocal styles), here Noralyn crafts something special: her voice twirls and swoons; her words remain tense and judgmental.  There are- in the world of Masquerade- plastic people: fake smiles and eyes that deceive and double-cross- our heroine has seen too many.  Noralyn’s piano work does not remain static and bordered: after the chorus she unveils a twinkling flourish; a rippling wave that beautifully punctuates the chorus- a perfect lead-in to the following verse.  When the promise is hidden and dissipated- perhaps her lover’s folly; the cruelty of a ‘friend’- there is heartache at hand.  Our heroine’s voice elongated the words; her projection is striking and effective- reminding me of Nelly Furtado’s delivery across Whoa, Nelly!  A watershed moment has arrived: Noralyn seems at a loss for words; she has been hurt and affected- my mind shifted to another interpretation.  I feel her subject could be (a former) love; someone who has betrayed her- and left damage in his wake.  Whatever/whoever the inspiration, you are entranced by the urgency throughout: Noralyn’s stunning voice waltzes and explodes; the composition remains constantly engaging- a stunning combination that lifts the songs (to heavenly heights).  Surrounded by plastic people- where it “doesn’t feel right”- our heroine is looking around; she needs answers and rectification- and people she can rely on.  As the song comes to its end- in the video, Noralyn sits at her piano; looking quite doe-eyed and broken- you have to feel for the heroine; that struggle and hurt- it is a feeling we can all understand.

Masquerade is a stunning debut release: a song that shows a distinct personality; a wonderful voice- a songwriter with a hell of a talent.  A lot of Pop songs fall at one hurdle: maybe the lyrics are cliché and weak; the composition one-dimensional and phoned-in; the vocal unarresting and po-faced- here there are no such issues.  From the first notes, the track keeps you fascinated and invested: the piano playing is wonderful and evocative; the percussion and electronics multifarious and powerful.  When it comes to the lyrics, they are by no means simplistic and inane: here we get an insight into Noralyn’s mind; she represents (a well-trodden subject) with a new lease of life- putting her own stamp on relations and lies.  Backed by a voice that is exhilarating and varied- her highs are bird-like and pin-sharp; her middles and lows heartbreaking and tender- and you have the complete package.  Supported with some terrific production work- that keeps the song fresh and modern without compromising clarity and feel- and Masquerade is a winner- no lie.  The multi-talented Australian has a bright future ahead; her songwriting is well-realised and impressive from the off- it will be fascinating to see what she creates next.

Having spent a lot of time with Noralyn and her music, I have been hooked and grabbed- a fan that will follow her career closely.  Stunning to the eye- few other singers and musician are as stunning and beautiful as she- it is the music that remains in the mind.  That particular and exotic vocal style- which nods to Amos and Bush yet has its own sound and personality- is matched by ambition and artistic reach: she is not an artists contented to do the minimum; she is focused and fresh; eager and talented- someone with a big future ahead.  Masquerade is a burnishing example of her fire-power: I cannot wait to hear more music from the young Australian.   At the moment, the first moves are being made: Noralyn only just moved to Brisbane; her aim of being a singer is only starting- so it would be premature to predict her next move.  I hope she looks towards an E.P. perhaps: Masquerade would be a perfect lead-off song; maybe a four-track record would be great- to really showcase her talent and vocals.  Bring her Classical and piano skills in: present a ballad or slow-burning anthem; something tender and passionate- combine that with songs that offer uplift and dance.  After hearing one song- and knowing what she is capable of- it is impossible not to project and predict (on her behalf)- and wonder just where she is going.  For one, Noralyn has a future: she is going to be an artist that will go beyond Australia; gain popularity and applause in the U.K. and U.S.; see demand from Europe and North America- and be wanting this side of the globe.  I hope Australia welcomes her forth: the likes of Melbourne would do well to host her with open arms; see what a talented singer she is.  Before I wrap up, I will just mention one thing: the female singer-songwriter sector.  We all know what is out there; the sort of sound/trends that are coming through- I think there needs to be a rethink.  The best female (and male, in fact) solo acts are not those Voice-auditioning wannabes; the sort that is mass-produced, committee-written- and terrifyingly pointless in essence.  The finest voices are those that have their own voice; they write their own music- and are not slaves to the desires of label men/women and T.V. audiences.  Noralyn is the antidote to the (growing and dismal) mass of made-for-tweens robots: the anodyne conveyor belts that offer no personality or longevity- simple vacant-eyed ‘musicians’ that are short-lived and utterly excruciating.  Social media is going a long way to curbing the trends: the true music-lovers are championing the (best and finest) solo acts- the mainstream media needs to catch up.  Until that day arrives- and one wonders if it ever will- be thankful for serendipity- and the likes of Noralyn.  Masquerade is a colorful and slinking song; masked and seductive the one moment- bold and intoxicating the next.  Backed with a tremendous vocal potion- that sees child-like sweetness tussle with sensual prowess- the young Australian is a superb artist.  The lyrics are memorable and inspiring; the composition effective and nuanced- the entire effect is quite brilliant.  These are the early days, yet the signs are all positive: Noralyn will be producing music for years; it will be fascinating to see her next move- what she has in her mind.  Make sure you check her out; show her some social media love- and investigate Masquerade.  In a scene where the greatest wealth emanates from the ten-a-penny acts, we are all richer for being poorer- the rare and underground artists are leading a revival; the ones that are the future of music.  On a wet and sullen day- unless it is sunny where you are: in which case, damn you! - you would be wise to check out Masquerade- and all the sunshine and energy it offers.  Guaranteed to stick in the brain, just sit back and take it in and…

SUBMIT to its many charms.




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