By Julie Park, November 26 2016 —
Coming nearly five years after the release of her wildly successful debut album, Our Version of Events, Emeli Sandé’s second studio album, Long Live the Angels, presents a compelling collection of tracks showcasing the Scottish singer’s striking talent. In contrast to Sandé’s debut album, which perhaps held a few more flourishes than necessary, Long
Live the Angels toys with simplicity, aligning songs that are deliberately toned back alongside the singer’s signature power ballads.
Sandé provides ample warning of the exploratory nature of the album with the opening track, “Selah.” The track plays with an infectious mosaic of trickling water, high vocal tones and ambient sounds, all injecting new elements into the singer’s typical sound.
The following track, “Breathing Underwater,” juxtaposes the simplicity of “Selah.” “Breathing Underwater” reintroduces the boisterous yet radio-friendly melodies Sandé is known for, boosting the singer’s vocals further with the presence of a backing gospel choir.
The lung-bursting melodies that characterize Sandé’s last album are offset with moments of restraint through interjected tracks that are purposefully stripped back, exposed and vulnerable. The interplay between commanding, anthemic hooks — like in “Sweet Architect” and “Highs & Lows” — and tender intimacies like “Right Now” creates a compelling juxtaposition. However, certain tracks, like “Lonely” or “Every Single Little Piece,” are pleasant without ever being impactful.
More rugged than her first album, Long Live the Angels is ultimately more rewarding. Sandé interjects delicacy, volume and clever rhythmic nuances whenever they are needed to develop and improve upon the sound she is known for.
Although her second album is more scaled back, Sandé’s usual soul belters are not entirely absent. Long Live the Angels brings together the best of the singer’s debut album with new and improved elements that are bound to please fans both old and new.