Though Shura longed for connection on her debut album, Nothing's Real, its delicate, lonely songs often hinted that she hadn't really fallen in love yet. On Forevher, finding the right woman -- whom she began talking to while on tour in America and eventually moved to New York to be with -- illuminates and animates her music. The way she blew up her life to be with her special someone is reflected in the sound of her second album. Though her soft-focus revamp of '80s pop was perfect for the yearning and isolation of Nothing's Real, its wispiness couldn't contain the big, bold emotions of these songs. Instead, Shura reaches back to the '70s for inspiration, drawing on the literate confessions of Joni Mitchell and Carole King and the joyous sensuality of Minnie Riperton to help her express the thrill and anxiety of falling deeply in love. On the lush, R&B-tinged "Side Effects," Shura sounds more in focus -- and more ready for a real relationship -- than ever before. This momentum continues on "religion (u can lay your hands on me)," a blissful confection of disco synths and strings that finds her worshipping and being worshipped by her lover, and on "the stage," a piece of breathy, strutting piano pop that captures how the world shrinks to two people when love is new. The flair for detailed lyrics that brought Nothing's Real to life shines on "forever," where Shura paints a picture of coupledom that includes velvet ropes, mini-golf, and tongues blue from shared sno-cones. Later on the album, she flexes a different side of her songwriting skills. Forevher might have been too much -- or too little -- if it was just irresistible pop songs. On its second half, Shura grounds her happily ever after with glimpses into the other big feelings that accompany getting serious about someone. She contemplates mortality and happiness before it's too late on "tommy," a ballad inspired by the story of a 90-year-old widower taking a second chance on love; on "princess leia," she faces her fears -- of flying, of commitment -- with stream-of-consciousness reflections. These introspective moments make the album that much richer, and when "skyline, be mine" culminates in a slow-building wave big enough to hold all her emotions and musical ambitions, Shura brings her listeners along for the ride. Triumphantly romantic, Forevher announces Shura as an artist who's as deft at soul-baring songwriting and soaring pop as Carly Rae Jepsen or Christine and the Queens.
by Heather Phares