Jenae Ailia creatively balances delicately soulful songwriting with contemporary sound design on this heartfelt and emotionally loaded new EP.
Beginning with the ambiently progressive tones of Room For Two, the project draws you in with those intimate and expressive, honest sounding vocals, then later evolves to seal the deal with far more of an electro-pop experience – which proves to support these open and vulnerable outpourings in a powerful, trip-hop-like manner. This opening song tips its hat to the xx as much as it does Ellie Goulding or even Corinne Bailey Rae – there’s a sense of personality to the sound that’s quietly striking.
Throughout Rx, Ailia’s vocals lean far more in the direction of jazz and soul – adding further identity and laying out a smooth and equally absorbing melody and story-line. By now, these concepts showcase an artist coming to terms with life and the world – as implies the EP title. That level of intention and artistic relevance stands tall throughout, presenting a mature way with songwriting amidst an easily relatable and likable playlist of moments that seek to connect and calm the deeper thinkers out there. From a songwriting perspective, Rx undoubtedly leaves a mark – that additional vocal during the hook, the way these doctor, doctor lines flick out into the room, all makes certain to grab attention and hold on to it right the way through.
Until follows on with quiet grace, providing a spacious moment of reflective poetry that looks to the future with a subtle touch of optimism and melancholy combined. There’s a little Billie Eilish in the voice and set-up here, which works well at this central point. Then to lift the spirits somewhat, Damn Love follows on with a quickly likable, mildly retro groove and a similarly drained sounding vocal that contrasts with the bounce of the beat in a memorable way. This one again grows to be something of an easily recognisable, alternative pop hit.
The final song on the project is the atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful What Are We Running Away From. With the opening intrigue of voices, voices fill my mind, alongside of that wash of synth and subsequently distant, almost industrial beat, then the progressing rhythm and journey that takes you through the ups and downs, the song takes hold and refuses to let go.
Rather than succumbing to industry expectations or mainstream flavors just for the hell of it, What Are We Running Away From takes the time to craft something straight from the heart, straight from the depths of the human mind, and this reaches out via everything from the lyrics to the vocal tone to the music. There’s an experimental aspect to much of this track, but it works – subtle and skillful production brilliantly supports and enhances Ailia’s ideas and the way her voice meanders through her own thoughts on life. A great way to go out, and another side to the artist well showcased.
Coming Of Age in full is undoubtedly a project that speaks to today’s generation of music fans and lost artists – those searching for understanding or a place to feel calm and welcome. A gorgeous EP, I look forward to hearing more from Jenae Ailia as time goes by.