Nilüfer Yanya’s debut starts out ominously. “Thank you for entering your details, and welcome to WWAY HEALTH, our 24/7 care programme,” the Londoner states in a creepily polite monotone voice, sounding like an overly familiar bad guy in a dystopian film. Across ‘Miss Universe’, the voice returns in a host of interludes. Representing the anxiety and paranoia of all-seeing technology, it’s a foreboding thread that runs through the record. Between these interludes, thirteen songs both lean into these feelings and try and break away from them.
Across a handful of EPs and promising singles, Nilüfer has shown herself a singer-songwriter firmly out of leftfield, mixing jazz and soul with pop sensibilities, happy to stray from the well-trodden path but always finding a way to keep an earworm stuck inside your head, be it a nonchalantly-sung chorus or an unusually delivered fleck of jazzed-up guitar.
All this promise is taken to the extreme on ‘Miss Universe’, a record that features both her most direct and most evasive music to date. Sitting in the former camp is opening track ‘In Your Head’, a grunge-nodding hammer-blow of a radio single, in which Nilüfer sings of paranoia, but shows no intention of succumbing to it. ‘Angels’ is similarly instant, folding out into a luscious, grand outro. ‘Tears’ furthers her ability to pen a hook, but swaps crunchy guitars for warped synths and a bright, skipping chorus.
Elsewhere, snappy numbers (‘Paradise’) lead into songs circling around reverb-drenched layers of vocals (‘Baby Blu’) and unusual skips through guitar pop and soul (‘Heat Rises’). It all sounds a little inconceivable on paper, but is tied together and brought to life by a singer-songwriter who evades pigeonholing - on purpose or accidentally, it doesn’t really matter - and provides a debut that’s all her own.