Album Review: Nilüfer Yanya – Feeling Lucky? EP

[ATO; 2020]

Luck, by its very nature, isn’t always good. It’s unpredictable and can send lives in unforeseen directions. And in 2020, when leaving the house carries a new set of risks, the idea of luck has never been more tangible. London-based Nilüfer Yanya explores this role of luck on her three-track Feeling Lucky? EP. These tracks mark new terrain for Yanya; they’re more somber compared to the crunchy synth-pop and euphoric soul heard on her critically-acclaimed debut Miss Universe. Yet they’re equally absorbing and commanding, and never have Yanya’s vocals been more inviting, as if she knows that these times call for closeness by whatever means possible.

“Crash” opens with Yanya’s bright vocals that belie her anxiety: “If you ask me one more question, I’m about to crash.” She returns to this line throughout, while the song itself falls into a tripping beat that one could, quite possibly, fall over. Yanya’s vocals move to-and-fro, with roaring guitar riffs and electronic effects equally occupying the song’s space. In the final minute’s production is tweaked just enough to feel like a remix – a quality Yanya has expressed love for, delivered here by producer Nick Hakim. 

On the delightfully soulful second track “Same Damn Luck”, Yanya examines luck’s role in love. “I pray every single time that you blow that kiss / I hope you miss, but it’s the same damn luck,” she laments over a mellow beat and plucked guitar notes that underscore her dilemma. Under different circumstances, she could probably move on and find someone else. Yet, as luck has it, this person constantly re-enters her life. She tackles this struggle while highlighting her vocal range; she occupies her lower register in the verses before leaping into her falsetto for the chorus.

Yanya follows this thread of (un)lucky love on the third and closing track “Day 7.5093” — which Yanya premiered on NPR’s Music Tiny Desk (Home) Concert series. Here, Yanya expresses concern for her and her lover’s future (“Lose all control and who’s gonna stop this? / Main thing is who’s gonna want this?”). Regardless of their future, Yanya’s aware the consequences are set in motion. The track falls in-between the first two in terms of energy, yet also comes closest to the energy captured on Miss Universe. The track’s slick guitar lines and hand claps create a c’est la vie aura that embraces her ability to take life as it comes without succumbing to it.

All of this is to say Feeling Lucky? is anything but a downer. These songs are raw with emotion yet equally polished and fun. And through her meditations on luck, listeners can discern a quality of Yanya’s that helps her stand out: her humility. She understands that people can’t always control their circumstances and that one’s future is, to a certain extent, anyone’s guess. But that uncertainty doesn’t stop her, and never will.