The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Nadine Shah – ‘Holiday Destination’ (1965 Records)

While she feels like a new presence on the scene with increased radio play in 2017, Holiday Destination is actually the third album from Nadine Shah and, in terms of the issues addressed, it’s an absolute blinder. Holiday Destination reflects on topics from islamophobia and politics, to gender expectations and the cultural icons that were sadly lost in 2016. In terms of sound, the album is generally pretty easy listening, at times drifting off into post-punk melodrama and spooky sounding synths, but all the while maintaining amazing basslines throughout its ten tracks.

Holiday Destination starts off with ‘Place Like This’, our first introduction to the rumbling, dirty bass that echoes through the album. This and the title track, ‘Holiday Destination’, have a distinctive sound of something that is somewhere between PJ Harvey and The Kills. Shah’s vocals on ‘Place Like This’ are a deadpan chant which between this and the bass is interspersed with a punchy funk guitar, whereas ‘Holiday Destination’ maintains the bass and the PJ Harvey/Alison Mosshart vibes however, the funk guitar is replaced with the aforementioned spooky synths. It also introduces the post-punk element to the album, and makes for an interesting contrast between the first two tracks.

‘2016’ is an immediate stand-out, not necessarily due to its sound, but for the plethora of themes that Nadine Shah manages to pack into four minutes and 47 seconds. She offers us a glimpse into her year, starting off by reflecting on turning thirty. Shah questions what is happening to her and seems to be asking whether her life at thirty is genuine or whether she is conforming to conventional societal expectations of women at such an age, such as broodiness for children, whilst poking fun at her “friends that are detoxing”.

he track then takes a sudden turn as Shah sings “cruel 2016 was the year that took our idols / what is there left to inspire us? / with a fascist in the White House / natural disasters / all this waste and waste and burning / see the temperature is rising / unlike friends who are detoxing.” All of a sudden, she trivialises all of the smaller things and demands us to pay attention to the atrocities that are occurring in the wider world, both natural and political, reminding us that these are the real issues that we should be focusing on instead of drinking smoothies.

Other high points in Holiday Destination include ‘Yes Men’ and ‘Evil’. The former is the main event when it comes to the post-punk sound that Shah presents and is instantly reminiscent of The Cure and Siouxsie & The Banshees. It is unclear whether Shah is commenting solely on Trump in this track, but it seems as though she is pushing this idea further to question the inherent corruption of men in positions of power surrounded by their yes men, questioning the patriarchy in general. ‘Evil’ is a little bit of a slow starter, but truly kicks in after two minutes. The roaring, scuzzy guitars completely change the pace and feel of the track, even when it slows back down in the verses, the guitars make you take notice.

The remainder of Holiday Destination is extremely easy and pleasurable listening, but for its high points, it should definitely be listened to as a whole. Nadine Shah has filled the gap between something that listens well but also kicks against the establishment and interrogates the state of today’s world affairs. (8/10) (Jesse Casey)

Listen to Holiday Destination here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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