Text PITCHFORK (8.3 rating)
by Mica Levi, Tirzah’s debut is a compelling vision of what imperfect
pop music can be—joyful in both sound and feeling precisely because both
seem so out-of-step and asymmetrical.
imperfect piece of art has a sway all its own. To some, the blemishes
and dimples on a handmade ceramic bowl will always be better than the
machine-made replica. The Japanese call this kind of beauty wabi-sabi;
some European thinkers refer to such ineffable idiosyncrasy as “aura.”
But at this point, imperfection has been perfected and mass-produced in
the form of distressed jeans, faux-vintage furniture, and certain lo-fi
music. Encountering something genuinely, gorgeously flawed is elusive.
Tirzah Mastin’s debut album Devotion is a compelling vision of
what imperfect pop music can be—joyful in both sound and feeling
precisely because both seem so out-of-step and asymmetrical.
Tirzah began to hone this vision in 2013 when she released I’m Not Dancing, an EP of eccentric dance-music ballads she made with the British producer and composer Mica Levi. The EP’s title track,
one of Tirzah’s defining songs, sounds as unconventional and alluring
now as it did half a decade ago: Wheezing, blown-out synthesizers and
rickety drum hits mingle with her quietly loud voice—so pure, so raspy,
so dogged and cool all at once. It begs you to lean in closer and make
sure the speakers aren’t broken. Like Jai Paul or FKA twigs,
her delivery is unguarded and messy in the way someone singing alone in
the shower might belt out a song. Listening to her feels somehow both
private and totally casual, a peculiar sort of shared intimacy. It’s
this quality that makes Devotion so particular.
Working again with Levi, who has produced all of Tirzah’s past music,
she’s moved away from the bright, ramshackle club music vibe of past
releases, and together, they’ve honed a sound that’s lean and almost
uncomfortably close. The spare style allows the listener to really zoom
in on each little detail of Tirzah’s voice—and in that space, things get