Why did I love this album the moment I heard it? The album is Too by -isq and let’s get the acronyms and wordplay out of the way – isq stands for Irene Serra Quartet. And the Too of the title refers to their second album. So that’s done, now why do I love it? For a while I have thought of singer-songwriter Irene Serra as the London equivalent of Silje Nergaard, whose stellar band was made up of the then Tord Gustavsen Trio (with the greatly missed Harald Johnsen and Jarle Vespestad). The delicacy of support and phrasing that Silje commanded in her band was unsurpassed for a singer who nearly made it big in pop, who totally charmed us with her “Be still my heart” and “How am I supposed to see the stars”.
So when I first came across Irene with her composition “Unforgettable You” (not on the album) I was immediately reminded of Silje. But this is no copy, although her band is every bit as skillful and moving as that with Silje, we have moved into darker territory with Irene, whose tragic, sultry voice is more suited to our times, and is the voice we all want – passionate, vulnerable, fragile yet strong, without a trace of regret.
The album consists of eight of Irene’s compositions. Each is striking, self aware, all are about love, or loss of it, or complicated love, there are no happy endings here. The tempos are like a girl skipping down the street, sometimes fast, sometimes slowing down, turning round to look at us thoughtfully and then moving on. The final track “Light and Shade” is defiant, yet tip toes away, the perfect way to leave us, no looking back. Highly recommended.
Touring right now, catch her and be entranced!
- Irene Serra, vocals
- Richard Sadler, double bass
- Chris Nickolls, drums
- John Crawford, piano
Mary James, 1 April 2015