Album of the Week: Tirzah – ‘No Romance’ EP

22.04.14

When it was released in August last year, London lady Tirzah’s ‘I’m Not Dancing’ EP made the Dummy staff collectively giddy. Clocking in at a little over 10 minutes, the EP – helped into being by longtime friend Mica Levi – was Dummy's favourite EP of the year, while its title track ranked at #2 in our countdown of 2013's best songs. Suffice to say, Tirzah and Mica's second EP for Greco-Roman, arrives with a lot of excitement – and the duo have come forth with another profound release.

Tonally and lyrically, ‘No Romance’ is a darker EP than its predecessor. The title track, with its steady whirring and revving, lyrically acts as an extension of Drake's "no new friends" mantra. This seems to be an EP about independence, self-worth, self-discovery, spending time with yourself, and trying to convince yourself that you don’t need the trappings of love, motivational in its declarations of "no romance" and "you got to be tough/you got to have style." The standout tracks demonstrate two different degrees of fuzziness, the first being frenetic, barreling, and firing-on-all cylinders, and the second magnificently fried and zoned out. The chugging Style sounds like it’s literally sparking, like a contraption on the fritz with its frothing-at-the-mouth, frantic cymbal playing and manic, jaunty, plucked backing, which sounds like a distorted string orchestra – it’s like a lost Girls Aloud song, or a track by The Prodigy with lyrics by the Spice Girls ("you gotta make sacrifices/you gotta be sweet"). 

It is weird to hear her sing "I need a man" on Style after the EP’s first song seems so vehemently against that notion. It can’t break down so simply to mean Tirzah thinks that in order to have style, one must have a man; Tirzah is smarter than that and, after hearing her first EP, it seems like the last thing she’s concerned with is being sweet.  And that’s a good thing. If anything, the lyrics of No Romance have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The EP goes from Tirzah holding this 'down with love' mindset at the beginning to close to comfortable at the end (evidence of this found in song titles like Best Thing). Best Thing dials down the fuzziness from Style until what’s left is basically a Salem track with clearer vocals. The synths quietly blend and morph while Tirzah riffs over the top. Songs like You, with Tirzah's sing-song, wispy vocal runs and dreggy guitar, are in a woozy, foggy, Maria Minerva-like vein. The last track, Malfunction (you get the feeling that this is her lovey-dovey song), is like Lily Allen-meets-Sampha-meets-Rosie Lowe with its simple clicking and clacking and piano. 

As an EP, ‘No Romance’ is even more stripped down and basic than ‘I’m Not Dancing’ and shows a woman going through the ins and outs of love. Fitting that the last track, Malfunction, ends with Tirzah repeating the words: "things you say for love." As has been said before, Tirzah and Mica understand structure and brevity so well that any EP of theirs is a master class.

8/10

Greco-Roman released 'No Romance' on April 21st 2014 (buy).