“I am the deepest shade of jaded,” singer-songwriter Yuna muses despondently on her moody, atmospheric new record. From the opening, “Mannequin,” a despairing lament, it’s clear the Malaysian-born vocalist is in very different musical and emotional places than on 2013’s radiantly poppy “Nocturnal.” Men are cold, careless betrayers viewed warily here: “I was just something that you can use,” she sings with icy bitterness. There’s a rubbed-raw honesty to her heartbreak and struggle to regain balance. If Beyoncé is cracking skulls these days, Yuna sounds too broken to pick up the bat. This intense misery could be oppressive in lesser hands, but producers Fisticuffs and Robin Hannibal surround the singer’s lithe vocals with alluring pulsing beats and rich electronic textures. “Lanes” is reminiscent of Hannibal’s great work with Rhye. “Used to Love You,” featuring Jhene Aiko (her influence is undeniable), finds wisdom through hurt, and “Too Close” turns romantic alienation into charming pop. A rainbow emerges with the sensual “Crush” and “Best Love.” Perhaps that’s Yuna’s next chapter.
ESSENTIAL “Too Close”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.