British singer-songwriter Charlene Soraia searches for her place in the world in a collection of raw, vulnerable acoustic songs recorded in a single take on Where's My Tribe.
Where's My Tribe
25 January 2019
Life is complex. Sometimes the most complicated feelings and emotions can be best explained over the simplest means. That is the principle behind the latest collection of unswervingly honest songs by British singer-songwriter Charlene Soraia. On her new album Where's My Tribe she holds a mirror up to herself in an attempt to understand who she is and where she fits in the modern world, with just a single acoustic guitar for company. The result is a collection of raw, vulnerable acoustic songs recorded in a single take, as she pours her heart out, sat alone in her flat late at night.
Opener "Where's My Tribe" sets the blueprint for the album. With only a solitary acoustic guitar, Soraia lays herself bare, capturing that rare moment when an artist manages to unravel a complex emotion using the simplest and most affecting of means. Over rippling acoustic guitar, she details that feeling of finding you've become untethered from societies' secure moorings, struggling to connect with the wider world as the tide conspires to take you further out to sea. As Soraia sings the chorus of "Chase my dragon / Chase my rabbit / Down the hole", she is reflecting on her self-inflicted dislocation as she knowingly shies away from meeting reality head-on.
Over perpetual waves of shimmering acoustic guitar, "Tragic Youth" finds Soraia struggling to keep the specters of the past from roaring back into the present. Like scratching at a scab that has had insufficient time to heal, she is not ready to let things lie, to let go of the things that have already, unwittingly, gone. She seems locked in limbo, not yet ready to make the changes that will enable recovery and progression. "Temptation" delves deep into unrequited love as the spark of initial attraction is denied the accelerant to ignite fully. Over delicately strummed guitar, Soraia depicts the push and pull of forbidden desire with both parties able to curb their feelings before they engulf them and incinerate all of the relationships that would lie in their path.
The only thing left for them to do is to contemplate what might have been which they do on "Now You Are With Her". The song serves as the flipside to "Temptation's" struggle to resist as the protagonists recoil back into their old lives, far away from the fantasy that dominated every waking hour. "Beautiful People" illustrates what a fluid, innovative guitar player Soraia is as she plucks, slaps, and picks out a rhythm to support her tender, echoing vocals on a song about living in a society that values beauty over everything else.
On the rootsy "Likely to Kill" her slapped acoustic string technique gives the music a quiet sense of menace which perfectly suits the subject matter. Here, Soraia details a pernicious relationship, one that threatens to spill over into something more serious as she sings, "If we stay together, I'll be more likely to kill you." It's doubtful this is a serious threat, more of an admission that the relationship can no longer continue for the sake of their own emotional welfare. However, the sentiment is still instantly relatable for anyone who has found themselves ready to rip themselves clear of a relationship before it's too late.
Closer, "Saboteur Tiger" finds Soraia's voice echoing the great female singer-songwriters of the 1970s like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt. You can imagine her, alone on a wooden stool with smoke circling her on a simply lit stage as her voice fills every nook and cranny in a packed hall. It's a memorable finish with some of her most inspired fretwork on the album.
At times painfully honest, Where's My Tribe encapsulates the enduring solemnity of a voice and a solitary guitar. The songs have an undiluted clarity to them thanks to the simple acoustic backing that heightens the bittersweet sense of beauty and pain. Few albums manage to untangle the complexities of everyday life in such an affecting manner.