Nadine Shah has never been shy about hiding her emotions toward some of the most pressing issues facing society. Though an English-born woman hailing from Whitburn in the North East - a place she holds close to her heart - she identifies as a second-generation immigrant, one who feels deeply troubled by current turmoil both in her country and beyond.
While previous LPs Love Your Dum and Mad (2013) and Fast Food (2015) didn't necessarily share similar themes, they both revealed how open and unabashed Shah's songwriting can be. As she tackled personal issues surrounding deaths of those she held dear and the anxieties that arise during testing times and relationships, she gave us an insight into her complicated world, laying bare her strengths and fragilities.
On Holiday Destination (2017), Shah brings us up to date with the latest issues occupying her mind; most notably the refugee crisis in Europe, the unashamedly banal racism that's plaguing British politics and certain ideals around her own country. By merely taking a look at her Instagram feed, it's easy to see that Shah has a lot to say; an array of snaps and tributes taken from polical rallies and homemade memes (such as a grimacing Theresa May with "SHITSACK" written across her face) sit amongst promo shots and portraits of her cat, Rodney.
Coming together once again with long term collaborator Ben Hillier, Holiday Destination is yet another expertly written and produced record; an eclectic mix of sharp indie and a mishmash of jangling grooves. Take opener "A Place Like This" for instance, with its chugging parmuted guitars and vibrant percussion laying above a crooning Shah, who begs the nation for a state of empathy towards refugees and those in need of shelter. It feels almost parody to have such an uplifting texture beneath such desperate lyrics, however, this juxtaposition is a very deliberate choice.
The themes surrounding Holiday Destination have been prominent in Shah's thought for several years now, many of which stemmed from 2014 when her film-maker-brother produced a documentary for Al Jazeera TV on a refugee camp in Gaziantep between the Turkish and Syrian border (Shah produced the music on this occasion). Events and scenes captured by her brother really caught his sister's interest and encouraged her to explore further. Recent endeavours have led to Shah playing shows in Istanbul and seeing first-hand the issues faced by young people, even within the capital city. Shah herself has come under criticism for upholding her political and religious beliefs, both online and physically, such as a recent trip to America in which she was removed and taken to room where "everyone in the room had brown skin" for further questioning; an experience that left the singer-songwriter confused and shaken. Her aggression and retaliation against this can be heard on tracks such as "Out the Way", in which she screams "Where would you have me go? / I'm second generation don't you know?"
Closing track "Jolly Sailor" stands out with its protruding timbre and deep bassline. As more instruments are introduced, notably a synth ostinato, and as the song climaxes, it almost shimmers from the darkness. A nuanced take on Briext, "Jolly Sailor" gives the impression that there really is light at the end of the tunnel.
While Holiday Destination is arguably Shah's most open LP to date, with all of her cards laid bare on the table for listeners to analyse and evaluate, it is by no means vulnerable or naive. This is a well thought-out record and is clearly something that has taken several years to coalesce and construct. Though the political edge can sometimes distract from the beauty of the instrumentation, articulation and overall composition, it never gets boring, with little twists and turns that get better upon every listen.