British singer/songwriter Freya Ridings' eponymous debut album is a heartfelt musing on pain and vulnerability. It explores the pushes and pulls of love with her first-rate vocals and rare songwriting prowess.
Ridings opens with "Poison," a piano-driven track lined with razors. It begins feather light, but the strings soon reach a point of frantic rage. Ridings sets loose her soulful voice, her hook being that she refuses spare her audience; not from pain, nor from joy. She swings beautifully, if a little like whiplash, between uptempo pop tracks like "Castles" and introspective, seductive ballads like "Ultraviolet," a tune that highlights the more ethereal, dark elements of Ridings' work. Though I suppose that's just how love works.
The most surprising tune on the album might be "Unconditional," a slow-burning, gentle track that nearly closes out the work. One of the few tracks where Ridings speaks about the sweet things that come with love, without any of the seduction or bacchanalia. On "Holy Water," it's easy to see where people have drawn comparisons to Florence Welch: driven by choral elements and organic production, it's energetically, elementally very similar to Lungs.
The undeniable triumph of this album is Ridings' voice, which soars. It is very rare to find a voice that sounds identical in live performances as it does on a studio track, but Ridings is definitely one of those singers. For previous Ridings fans, her album will sound familiar. Largely comprised of studio versions of tracks released on her two live albums, this album feels like a fleshed out, fully-realized body of work for a talented artist who is still very young and despite her major success thus far, still attempting to find her footing.