[three and a half stars]
Coming to notice early in her career via collaborations with Quantic, Bah Samba and Nostalgia 77 in the early 2000s (and more recently with Fatboy Slim and David Byrne), British singer Alice Russell has slowly but steadily risen through the ranks of blue-eyed soul music. She’s also released a series of strong solo records, the latest of which is To Dust, a solid fusion of old and new. The pithy ‘A to Z’ opens the affair, its laidback funk shimmer melding well with a sharp pop edge. It lays a foundation for the rest of the album – that marriage of old-school and modern – but that balancing act never gets in the way of what the album is really about: Russell’s voice. It will no doubt draw comparisons to Adele’s, but where Russell stamps her own mark is how easy she makes it sound. Whether slow and simple (the horn-laden ‘Twin Peaks’) or free-flowing and powerful (the gritty ‘Heartbreaker’), Russell makes it clear that she’s at the forefront of the new soul movement.