Nilüfer Yanya Painless ATO Records
West London-based musician Nilüfer Yanya has always anchored her musical projects with concepts. Her 2019 debut, Miss Universe, was built around a malevolent wellness service, and the follow-up 2020 EP, Feeling Lucky, focused on – perhaps unsurprisingly – luck and chance. For her second album, Painless, Yanya is no longer using themes as crutches to convey her darkest moments. Instead, she shares her own indeterminable emotions, unstifled and exposed.
From the first note of Painless, it’s clear that Yanya is deep in her feelings. The Dealer plunges into a speedy beat, mirroring the restlessness that runs throughout this record. Anxiety never offers a warning, so why should she? “It’s been weighing on my mind/ Seems to be with me all the time,” Yanya mutters in its opening lines. Unlike her earlier jazz-fuelled work, Painless favours 90s grunge and infusions of hip-hop, dance and the plucked saz of Turkish folk. And, as ever, Yanya’s voice is her greatest instrument. It’s especially moving when paired with the agitated guitars of album standout Stabilise, the strained whispers of Trouble or the airy resignation of Try.
Though the title of Painless implies a numbness, it seemingly encourages the opposite. Here, Yanya recognises that to escape pain, you must endure it first. “Under it all I’m shameless/ Until you fall it’s painless,” she sings with a soft acceptance on Shameless. It’s an outlook that has allowed her to sit with her feelings, regardless of how messy they are – and it has resulted in her best work yet.