Solitude has been the muse of many a songwriter. Some love it, some hate it, some are simply unable to create without it. It seems that New Zealand singer-songwriter Nadia Reid has a complex relationship with solitude. On the one hand, many of the albums songs reference relationships and, as often as not, the lack thereof. Many of the songs on her sophomore effort, ‘Preservation’, see Reid let down by a significant other, most obviously on album closer, ‘I Ain’t Got You’. Solitude, often as an unavoidable by-product of broken relationships, springs up a lot on the album. On the other hand, though, a good number of the songs on ‘Preservation’ are sparsely arranged reflections on aloneness, not as a source of discomfort but as time to find strength and perhaps, if the album’s numerous references to heaven are anything to go by, a source of spiritual or religious comfort.
Lyrically, then, ‘Preservation’ shares many of the same themes as Reid’s excellent 2014 debut album ‘Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs’. That album, too, dealt with unsatisfactory relationships and a sense of spirituality, as well as childhood memories and reflections on small-town life in New Zealand; both themes which return on Reid’s second long player.
Though ‘Preservation’ is no great leap forward lyrically, musically Reid and her band cover plenty of new ground; as well as evolving ideas found on her first. ‘Preservation’s’ bittersweet title track opens the album in relatively traditional form, a delicately picked electric guitar serving as backing to Reid’s husky vocals. The surprise inclusion comes towards the end of the song when a fast arpeggio synthesizer drifts into the mix. It’s a completely unexpected inclusion and a world away from any trope of the genre but it works surprisingly well – it’s subtle enough to potentially go unnoticed but it adds an unusual layer texturally, that gives the song real depth.
The album’s most experimental moment comes towards the end, with the track ‘Te Aro’. Presumably named after the suburb of Wellington, the track is something of an anomaly in Reid’s short discography. Whereas all other songs on her two albums are underpinned with relatively traditional structuring and instrumentation, ‘Te Aro’ sees Reid push herself into unknown territory. Instrumentally, the song is spacious, oblique and atmospheric. Reid allows her vocals to unfurl at a more leisurely rate here, too. An impressionistic, reverb drenched refrain drifts through the foggy ambience of the music, creating a singular and affecting atmosphere quite unlike anything else on the album. It’s a real left turn for Reid; but it works excellently and ends up as an album highlight.
The more traditional fare on the album also works well, thankfully. As with her debut, much of the album is split between songs played with full adornment from Reid’s band and more sparsely arranged solo material. As was the case with ‘Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs’, it’s actually the band material that shines the brightest on ‘Preservation’. ‘Arrow & The Aim’ and ‘Richard’ are both early standouts. The former’s swelling, memorable chorus makes it an instantly enduring track; whilst the punchy drums and Americana twang of the latter make it one of the albums most vivid songs.
The upbeat ‘Right On Time’ is another immediate standout. The bright, singing guitar and brisk rhythm come as a welcome change from the album’s usually more subdued sound; and the bright palette, coupled with one of Reid’s strongest melodies makes the track a highlight.
The album’s sparser moments don’t always capture quite the same sense of energy and passion, but they’re still solid. ‘Hanson St Part 2 (A River)’ is nice but doesn’t quite hit the mark, whilst ‘Reach My Destination’ is better but not a stand-out. The band’s performances on ‘Preservation’s’ more dense arranged tracks are so good that, by comparison, they do make the solo tracks – of which are only a couple – feel a little dry.
‘Preservation’ is a confident, well made record and worthy successor to Reid’s excellent debut album. ‘Preservation’ sees Reid evolve her songcraft without losing what made her first record good; and she takes a few unexpected risks that pay off well. At times the record loses momentum a little and, as with her debut, some of Reid’s vocal mannerisms become slightly over-used by the end of the album. That said, she has a great sound which she understandably makes the most of.