The London jazz-pop musician is at her most opaque on a new three-song EP, yet these tracks are as evocative and affecting as any in her catalog.
Nilüfer Yanya’s melodies have a pull so strong they almost necessitate their own law of physics: Play a song in your living room one time, and two days later, without fail, you’ll hear your roommate singing it. As she’s evolved as a musician, the London-based artist has shifted from slick jazz-pop towards scuzzier rock, but those tremendous hooks, bolstered by her intricate guitarwork, remain at the center. On last year’s full-length debut Miss Universe, Yanya candidly tackled heartache, disappointment, and paranoia, channelling existential dread into unyielding anthems of angst. Her new three-song EP, Feeling Lucky?, is nominally about losing and finding good luck. But the theme comes secondary to continued dread—fear of flying, resentment about feeling trapped in a relationship. These songs are some of her most opaque, yet they are as evocative as any in her catalog. More than ever, those intricate melodies—guitar lines that evoke Soccer Mommy or Liz Phair, flurries of roller rink-ready synth notes—provide the emotional heartbeat.
The narratives on Feeling Lucky? feel nebulous in part because Yanya’s layered, distorted words often dip in and out of legibility, functioning more as an instrument than as a means for communication. Most striking is her expert falsetto, gauzy but crystalline, like a frosty window on a cold winter morning. “Day 7.5093” finds its backbone in the lower registers of Yanya’s voice, which intertwines with a guitar riff that could propel a ’90s alt-rock jam. But the whimsy and sparkle comes when she intermittently breaks into falsetto—and at the end, when she duets with a series of staccato, high-pitched synth blips, like two robots having a conversation.
Yanya has always made deliberate use of repetition, an approach that’s especially effective here, as the words and phrases that emerge from the instrumentals become more resonant. The chorus on the Nick Hakim-produced “Crash”—“If you ask me one more question, I’m about to crash”—emerges through a mesh of guitar, twisting like a ribbon. The song leaves you dizzy and agitated, capturing the emotional tunnel vision induced by extreme annoyance. The lyrics of “Same Damn Luck” discuss spite and resentment, but what echoes in the mind are the chanted words “miss you, miss you,” a feeling of confused yearning that matches the ’80s nostalgia of the diffused synth and meandering guitar.
Short EPs like this one can sometimes feel like stopgaps between bigger projects, but the songs on Feeling Lucky? express Yanya’s anxiety from a new vantage point: in the middle. Permeated by adrenaline and confusion, they parse feelings without establishing any distance from them. At a little over 10 minutes long, the project is too short to elaborate on its overarching themes. Instead, it submerges the listener into the middle of the action and invites them to stay for a moment.