James Writes About a Wonderful Record
If you aren’t familiar with the name Sasha Sloan already, you will assuredly be familiar with music that isn’t technically hers. Over the past five years Sloan has amassed a mountain of songwriting credits with artists such as LANY, John Legend, Charli XCX, Idina Menzel and Katy Perry, and deservedly so. Sloan’s abilities as a songwriter are incredible, and for an artist as young as she is it is particularly impressive to see the quality of her compositions continually holding up in comparisons to the usual crop of producers and songwriters in the LA scene.
Only Child, however, is Sloan’s very first solo studio album, and *spoilers* it is wonderful. From the first track we know Sloan has capitalised on the slow, mesmerising chill-pop that has dominated the industry for a little while now, but through an effortless vocal delivery paired with light guitars and subtle pads, Only Child crafts a tone matched in heaven.
Lyrically, this album is no easy ride, determined to tackle loneliness, grief, and body dysmorphia across the tracklist, and opener ‘Matter To You’ sets the tone well. The guitar is punchy - though not overwhelming - and its determinably 1990s chord progression suits the track well. Splashes of reverb on Sloan’s voice sprinkle a little more of an atmospheric edge to the track and the gentle drum beat kicking in in the second verse breathes some life into the whole thing.
‘House With No Mirrors’ is a head-first take on self esteem and body image. It is a powerful track lyrically, and the slight cracks and wobbles in Sloan’s voice really emphasise the emotion she is feeling. ‘Lie’ too is a real highlight. Its a slow-but-boppy slice of chilled out synth pop. The chorus beat is excellent and the subtle guitar stabs give it much more of an indie feel. Its definitely a stand-out in the tracklisting.
On ‘Santa's Real’, however, the album loses its way a little as the artist describes a child-like desire for a world where Father Christmas exists, using that as a metaphor for wishing for positivity after a childhood consumed by divorce. The desire to see these issues through the lens of a child is not one without potential, but does sit more than a little uncomfortably in the current political climate, seemingly gesturing to some desire to make institutional reforms but through the lens of near-total naivety. Whilst jokey on the surface, its clear Sloan is using metaphor to cover up pain, but it does stand out as a track with a quite sickly and under-developed sentiment behind it:
"I want to live in a world
Where people don't get hurt
And everybody's got enough money
Where nobody ever gets sick
Or ever has to skip a meal
I want to live in a world where Santa's real"
Lasting only thirty-four minutes and ten tracks, the brevity of Only Child actually improves the album. Without filler or unnecessary sections it is a clean cut and concise pop record. The LP lacks variation at time, with most tracks sharing a similar structure and format - but that can slip somewhat under the radar due to its short runtime. If it were any longer, I can see it growing stale pretty quickly, particularly when noticing that King Henry has a production credit on every track on the album, which is potentially where the problem lies. After producing the last LANY record, my biggest issue with his contributions was how same-y some of it was. Despite this, there isn’t a track that jumps out at me as being dull, or unnecessary - which is a hard feat to pull off.
Sasha Sloan’s debut album is stunning. Feeling like the love child of LANY and Kacey Musgraves, Only Child is a half-hour cut of well produced, well written and well performed pop songs. For a debut, the rawness and openness of some of the lyrics are astounding. Sloan has proved to the world she is as good an artist as she is a songwriter, and I am eager to see her future projects. This record might just be my favourite pop album of the year, and I already feel it will slide under the radar of many music fans.
- 7.8 -
'Matter To You', 'House With No Mirrors', 'Lie'
James Mellen is currently studying songwriting and production based near Bristol. Interests include silly effects pedals, Yorkshire tea and 100 gecs.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and co-edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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