As regular readers will know, I went along to the launch party of this album and had a really great time. XSARA is a wonderful performer and her voice really captivates a room while her entourage provide a jazz, blues, funk explosion. Are There Dragons In Your Heart? is her second album and follows on from Are You Living In A Paradox? from last November.
The half Egyptian, quarter Swedish singer has always stood out for me as different. With the amount of indie, alternative and electronica bands who contact me, XSARA is a breath of fresh air and her music allows me to really sink my teeth into something that is a step away from what I’m used to listening to. Are There Dragons In Your Heart? is an eclectic mix of light-hearted fun, soulful serious confessions and some cynical social commentary.
Opening with She’s A Monster, which tells the story of a female stalker in a quirky, Gaga-esque style. A creeping piano and jazzy blasts make up the framework while a sassy higher vocal adds to the kooky catchy rhythm. It breaks down into a slow, smooth piano section with subtle jazz hints which finishes it off nicely. It deals with a dark subject matter in an upbeat fashion, which I love.
The first of the stripped back songs Moving On is a soft piano ballad which begins almost acapella. It’s very simple and understated leaving XSARA’s voice to do all the work. A sad reflective tone is adopted to depict the feeling of leaving a much-loved partner set to glistening piano ripples and echoing backing vocals. It’s a very pretty song and is on a par with It’s Not Me for my favourite on the record. It’s Not Me is another slow, light piano song. It has an air of musical theatre to it which I love and again, it has a sad thoughtful theme. A soft drum and soft brassy notes decorate it perfectly and it’s the perfect break-up song.
Of course, XSARA is best known for her bouncy rhythms and jazzy blasts, which are in abundance on Strange Love. Her vocal takes on a retro swing form and with its toe-tapping beat and passionate, angsty vocal delivery, it’s the ideal show tune. Similarly, Business Of Bodies has a catchy staccato rhythm and a passionate, fast-paced vocal delivery. Again, there is an air of Gaga to it and it’s another example of her dealing with a dark, serious subject in an light-hearted way.
Her blues influences are most obvious on Sticks And Stones, which has some definite blues in its riffs. The vocals themselves have a jazz personality and after the rise in tempo in the second half, the signature staccato rhythm kicks in as do the eerie backing vocals. XSARA’s vocals are really pushed to the limit as they are on I’m Your Animal. This song has a deep bass, a dancing piano and the full range of XSARA’s vocals from the very bottom to the very top. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking there are two people singing. It’s a sexual song with some cries of pleasure amidst the purring vocal as well as a slow sensual rhythm.
Reverting to her previous material, One Eyed Man is a quirky, catchy swing number. It races along a bass backing and the trumpet blasts simply accompany the girlish, passionate vocals. It sounds wonderfully vintage and perfect for dancing the night away to. Ending on You Got A Problem? we’re treated to a steady drum beat, a melodic vocal and some soft jazz injections. It’s about the simple notion of people being jealous of success but being as kind to them as possible, in order to show them who the bigger person is. It’s a simple melody and has a message which everyone can relate to and learn from.
Are There Dragons In Your Heart? is a mixed album that will probably make you laugh and cry. She really has included all emotions and I can only imagine that it must have been a rollercoaster to write. There are some very deep messages and some serious stuff is dealt with and it’s this that gives it some sincerity behind all the fun showcase.