It is March 2014 when ‘Touch’ arrives, as if from nowhere: the first finished track that Shura has written and produced. Built around a pillow-soft beat, languid bassline and a slowly unfurling melody, its snapshot of that awkward friend-zone period post-break-up results in one of the most enduring blog crossovers in recent years: over thirty million plays, sell-out worldwide shows, and fans in the least probable of places (first, the likes of Dev Hynes, Jungle and Kylie Minogue: later, the guest verse from Talib Kweli, a remix from Four Tet, and a Live Lounge cover from Mumford & Sons).
Her debut album ‘Nothing’s Real’ mixes much of what Shura loves, teasing it into unusual shapes: part infectious 80s pop (early-Madonna, Janet Jackson), part brooding, bedroom-R&B (Dev Hynes), via the alternative rock textures of War on Drugs or Fleetwood Mac. Lyrically, too, ‘Nothing’s Real’ assimilates a number of timelines. The break-up introduced on ‘Touch’ is traced back to the writing’s-on-the-wall of ‘Indecision’; played out through the desperately raw slow-jam, ‘Kidz & Stuff’; then climaxes on ‘Make It Up’, a literal parting of ways. The soaring, anthemic ‘What Happened To Us’ describes that frustration of meeting someone at the wrong point in your life.
Retreating to her safe-haven bedroom and binging on video games, comics and science fiction during the making of this album, it’s Shura’s love of Sci-fi which gives the album its multiverse feel. Exploding the personal into fantasy is captured vividly elsewhere on ‘Nothing’s Real’. The glorious uplift of ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ depicts a relationship that never was. ‘White Light – all 7 unpredictable minutes of it – is “a call-to-arms for weirdos”. Slower and more sensual is ‘2Shy’, blooming from its social awkwardness into a world where you could be a little bit braver.
So whilst the scope of ‘Nothing’s Real’ may be widescreen, Shura’s ultimate concerns are far closer to home: loneliness, coming of age, and the wellbeing of those you love. The album’s hidden track – ‘31.12.15’ – is an affectingly spaced-out vision of growing older, and making peace . It’s a fitting note of To-be-Continued, on an album which maps Shura’s journey through to adulthood, and also mirrors her development as a songwriter.