Alayna: Self Portrait of a Woman Unravelling (digital outlets)

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Cherry Tree
Alayna: Self Portrait of a Woman Unravelling (digital outlets)

The title on this debut album from a Rotorua-raised singer might suggest something like an agonising screamfest of aural therapy.

But here the soul/R'n'B singer offers thoughtful, intimate lyrics of gentle self-analysis and emotional sensitivity and songs which sit on soft beds of synths.

Shaped as much by traditional singer-songwriters (she cites Dylan and Cohen) as contemporary soul, this debut – which collects four of her singles – is a mature and sophisticated work as befits this graduate of MAINZ who relocated to New York where she recorded her debut EP while working the day job (the Clam Shack) before her visa ran out.

She admits to struggles with her mental health but while this album finds her asking questions of herself (the opening line on the first song Who Am I Now is “Alayna where are you?” and the closing track brings everything to a close) and where she might be headed (if anywhere, check Arrived) this never sounds indulgent or self-pitying.

With producer Devin Abrams helping craft the delicate and fragile A World Without You with its moving cello part, and the affirmation of Cherry Tree (“You used to be my oxygen but now I am breathing on my own”) this generous collection of 14 songs feels neither self-absorbed to the point of excluding her audience, nor too long.

She speaks eloquently for herself, so let's allow her: “[This album] is a journey inward, with the intent of finally finding my own voice. I've written a lot about my relationship with others, but this was the first time I was truly writing about the relationship with myself.

“It was my answer to the question of 'Who are you?' with 'How could you ask someone to paint a self portrait if they cannot see themselves?'.

“I knew I would find the journey confronting and difficult at times, but what I wasn't prepared for was the fact that the more I leaned in, the more the woman that I was wanting to find would unravel.

“I could never quite get a grasp of her. It took me quite a while, and many songs, to realise that this pursuit would be never ending. I would never really be able to find myself as I'm in constant motion and evolving.

“But perhaps this very kind of unravelling is somebody after all.”

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You can hear and buy Alayna's debut album at bandcamp here


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