Album of the Week: Cloves’ debut One Big Nothing (2018 LP) both hits hard and emotionally simmers to touch your spirit

Debut albums play an important role in the life of an artist. They are generally full of emotion, heartfelt messages, life experiences and the artist’s passion for their craft. After three years of hard work, Cloves’ debut, One Big Nothing fulfils these expectations grandly, guiding the listener through a journey of Cloves’ blossoming music career, amidst ten phenomenal tracks. The album spans a swath of genres, covering reggae, pop, soul and elements of rock which characterises Cloves’ sound as highly individual all helping to create a debut album that leaves a hefty mark on the listener.

Cloves opens One Big Nothing on the smooth “Bringing The House Down”, her early 2018 single. This lead up to the album sizzles, creating a powerful platform for the rest of the album to lean on. The track cuts into a rhythmic guitar bobbing about and Cloves’ silky vocals driving, before breaking open at the main chorus. The song shifts, moving away from the softening guitar-centric verses creating dancey jiving choruses, lifting the tone but still keeping its emotive dagger edge.

The album then moves to grow some momentum as “Hit Me Hard” builds the power. It opens to bubbly piano chords and Cloves’ subtle vocals, before throwing the energy in quick as the track evolves with pace, adding a thudding beat which Cloves’ softening, emotive vocals float upon to great effect. The end of “Hit Me Hard” cuts away leaving Cloves’ bleeding heart vocals, with the main hook “hit me hard” fading out, a tender lead into the next track.

The album is fluid in its flow, with rhythmically heavy hitting tracks, “Don’t You Wait”, and “Wasted Time”, with its grand finish helping to build the pulsing energy that courses through the album. While some of the slower movers such as “Frail Love” use Cloves’ held back, angelic vocals and pressing chords to alleviate of the heavier moments. The juxtaposition of these sounds helps to remind the listener of one of Cloves’ talents; her ability to mix and create sounds across such a multitude of genres.

Melancholic vocals and low-key instrumentals emphasising the more subtle values of Cloves’ voice is another theme throughout the majority of One Big Nothing. “Better Now” is one such track, backed by a slow drum beat and bass line that softly leads through the recording. These sounds lean against Cloves’ soulesque vocals, which take centre stage in the track, bar the occasional heavy strumming of the guitar leading into the chorus. Yet, these quieter songs help highlight the bigger moments, while also telling a story of their own, creating a narrative with a sense of real musical development and purpose behind them.

“Up & Down” and “Don’t You Wait” follow through to the close of One Big Nothing, as the two tracks build an emotive platform to work down to “One Big Nothing”.  “Don’t You Wait” creates a relaxed temperament for the close of the album. Seemingly easy to slow dance to, the emphasis comes through in the hooks and the slightly excitable guitar lines, reminiscent of light jazz or soul. It keeps just enough energy to create the right lead into the completion of the album, while itself standing out as a highlight of the album.

“One Big Nothing” the closing and title track off of Cloves’ debut, places a final high note on the album. Built around Cloves’ tender vocals, vividly melancholic piano and the soft strumming of a guitar, “One Big Nothing” is a brilliant and emotional way for Cloves to close her album. The recording takes everything which characterises Cloves musical work and places it in a single track to enjoyably mull over, focusing on a mix of genres, with rock and dance sounds influencing the backing, while a till having the soft pop-esque vocals driving the heart of the performance. This couples with Cloves’ powerful lyrics and memorable hooks to create a well-rounded track that catches the ear, but also connects with the heart.

As far as debuts go, Cloves has hit a winner. One Big Nothing displays the progression Cloves has made since her earlier EP release, showcasing a passion (not to mention skill) to expertly share the sound she is striving to create. Every note, phrase and hook has been placed purposely, mixing to create a brilliant mark left by Cloves on the music scene, easily deserving of high praise, and indeed our Album of the Week title. 

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

One Big Nothing is out on Friday, 28th September through Universal Music Australia.

Cloves plays New York tonight before heading to Europe for a tour through October. For more details head to her official website.

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