Alessia Cara’s debut, 2015’s Know-It-All, was confident and showed promise, but ultimately suffered a bit from its somewhat generic sound. Alessia’s got an interesting voice, and her delivery is strong, but you just knew she could do better. The Pains of Growing moves things further, thankfully: it’s a reintroduction of sorts to the 22-year-old Canadian, not that she needed one. What the record proves is how Alessia works best when everything else around her keeps up with her: the more sparse songs fall flat, but when she pursues a variant of the classic Motown sound (only a few things scream maturity better than the Motown sound) she shines, the layers highlighting her delivery and giving stress to what she has to say. My particular highlight is “Comfortable”, what essentially is a song about contentment that you wouldn’t expect from someone at her age. I honestly thought I had Alessia figured out, but The Pains of Growing is such a treat; I’m glad to say hello again. [NB] | 4/5
We’re closing up shop for another year, which means our obligatory look at the year that was – and, like in the past two years, it’s in the form of ten songs, arranged alphabetically by artist. And it’s been an interesting year, indeed. Pop music was, once again, no longer a guilty pleasure. The much-anticipated comeback of guitar music did not happen, but we had some genre-pushing, if not outright weird, alternative anyway. We’ve seen new acts make a legitimate splash, but it wasn’t for the sake of a new voice. We’ve seen old acts make triumphant returns, but nostalgia wasn’t the biggest thing. Things have not settled down to the way people want it to be (and that could mean anything depending on who you ask) but things have never looked this good in recent years either. It is weird. Interesting, but weird.
The best thing about Alessia Cara is her delivery. Listen to “Here”, her breakout hit: the rapid-fire flow in the chorus does not obscure the track’s confessional nature, and her silky, velvety voice just helps it all go down easily. Know-It-All, her debut, shows has this quality in spades. Sure, the whole thing somewhat loses steam in the middle – it gets a bit too comfortable until the noteworthy piano ballad “Stars” – but the record manages to sound fresh all throughout. Again, that voice. It does remind me a bit of Haley Reinhart without the jazzy excursions. Alessia does not lose sight of the game, and shows a mastery of her most potent tool as she digs through her teenage life and fishes whatever she could fish out of it. It’s an interesting, confident debut from a talent that just popped out of nowhere. Should be a sign of better things to come. [NB] | 4/5