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The Warm, Inviting "Long Live The Angels"
Emeli Sandé’s second studio album, ‘Long Live The Angels’ emanates a warm, inviting and tender quality throughout its playtime. The release's best songs are sprinkled with almost healing musical influences. The new record not only puts Sandé’s storytelling talents on display, it also shines a spotlight on the 29-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter’s capacity to communicate the raw emotion within her songs.
Sandé’s ability to do this is at the core of the album’s many high points, it pulls ‘Long Live The Angels’ together. Sandé’s vocal is equally capable, but not as distinct as some of her industry contemporaries. Interestingly, on ‘Long Live The Angels’, Sandé generally abstains from aimless vocal grandstanding and directs her talents into laying the groundwork for the record’s collection of acoustic, pop/soul and R&B-lite creations.
With the focus taken away from being a big-selling, international pop diva, Sandé maintains a genuine sense of humbleness on emotionally injured efforts like ‘Lonely’, ‘Sweet Architect’ and ‘I’d Rather Not’.
A Selection of Sharp Beats Shake Up the Tracklisting
‘Long Live The Angels’ also tackles a tendency for Sandé’s output to leave an unchallenging and interchangeable impression. Several of its cuts integrate modern, sharper beats into their musical make-up. This is not done excessively, ‘Long Live The Angels’ doesn’t ferociously evolve Sandé’s sound. Still, these songs effectively stimulate the tracklisting. On top of that, they reframe expectations of what Sandé may be able to offer as an artist in the years to come.
‘Long Live The Angels’ isn’t free from tracks that fall under the radar though. The three or so cuts that proceed standout tune ‘Garden’ are passionately and precisely delivered, however they all descend into passable balladry. Additionally, the album falters when it becomes preoccupied with replicating the success of her debut album, 2012’s ’Our Version Of Events’. Stirring, dramatic lead single ‘Hurts’ can feel formulaic and prepared. The cut is hindered by the fact it sounds as if it was designed solely to appeal to the many fans of Sandé’s early singles ‘Heaven’ and ‘Next To Me’, both of which surpass 'Hurts'.
Highlight "Garden" Features Jay Electronica and Áine Zion
On a more positive note, ‘Garden’ is blessed by appearances New Orleans rapper Jay Electronica and UK poet and musician Áine Zion. It boasts compelling, anxiety-free performances from all three featured artists and works a contemporary balance between urban and more refined ideas. ‘Garden’ bands together tough beats, nocturnal loops and unaffected, fresh singing from Sandé. The track sounds uncluttered - its arrangements practically scream freedom.
The lyrics of ‘I’d Rather Not’ potently describe the negative aftershock of a broken-down relationship in a way plenty of listeners will be able to relate to. Despite the destructive imagery conjured up by the mid-tempo R&B effort's words, ‘I’d Rather Not’ glows with tranquil, reflective textures. Towards its end, Sandé drops a round of compelling ad-libs.
Sandé's Zambian Heritage is the Inspiration for "Tenderly"
A ghostly, edgy vocal loop is combined with more customary guitar backing on gradual highlight ‘Lonely’. ‘Lonely’ is spacious and inviting. The song’s soothing presentation and delicate performance make it one of the album’s growers. Inspired by her Zambian heritage, ‘Tenderly’ features Sandé’s father, Joel. ‘Tenderly’ has the songstress asking to be treated with the same warm-heartedness that courses through the very veins of ‘Long Live The Angels’.
‘Sweet Architect’ could function as a little brother to Sandé’s hit ‘Heaven’, its lyrics will surely provide respite for anyone going through a testing period.Though ‘Sweet Architect’ does nothing landmark, Sandé completely embodies a sense of helplessness on the song, which greatly enhances its messages. The sweeping gospel choir placed at the track’s climax has the same effect, but amplified.
"Long Live The Angels" is Filled with Devoted, Romantic Sentiments
‘Every Single Little Piece’ communicates devoted, romantic sentiments - the majority of ‘Long Live The Angels’ does. What makes ’Every Single Little Piece’ different is that it goes somewhat syrupy. It can feel rote, like the kind of track a music industry bigwig would flippantly forward to an X Factor or The Voice finalist for his/her manager's consideration. If the tune were sung by a lesser vocalist, it would be skippable.
The stylish, up-to-date production of ’Babe’ glimmers with something sexier and sassier. The track takes advantage of a catchy, breezy momentum. At first, the toe-tapping Americana of ’Highs & Lows’ can feel like a throwaway off-shoot of the similar-sounding, classic songs it's clearly inspired by. Eventually though, as its open and simple musical elements build up, the track undeniably gains traction. It’s easy to envision the song being played live in a music venue full of eager fans.
The Album's Very Special Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks
Normally, the bonus tracks tacked onto the back end of an album’s deluxe edition are non-crucial. Yet the three included on the deluxe version of ‘Long Live The Angels’ are special. ‘This Much Is True’ merges folksy ideas with bright, low-key guitar accompaniment for a bare-bones feel. Sandé uses the cut to explain that though she is weary of many things in the world, she is certain of the love she has for her partner. The tune is affectionate in a way that isn’t exaggerated - its words could even be applied to listeners’ platonic relationships. Sandé slides casually over the crisp R&B beatwork and supportive lyrics of ‘Kung Fu’. All of the song’s elements come together to pad out its snug, mellow aura.
‘Somebody’ is a melodically pleasing, wide-reaching, rousing standout. Over subtle, lingering strings, Sandé’s impressive vocal is allowed to take the tune’s limelight. If ‘Someday’ were accapella it would still impact. As the cut’s lyrics describe an ongoing inner battle with feelings of loneliness, disorientation and self-doubt, Sandé spine-tinglingly channels the song’s intense emotional currents.