Jessie Ware's third album is packed with finely woven adult-pop ballads about lust, longing, commitment, and reassurance -- all traits shared with Devotion and Tough Love -- but it couldn't have been made at any other point in the artist's life. The singer and songwriter aimed to complete it by the time she gave birth to her daughter. After some critical straight talk from collaborator Benny Blanco, Ware scrapped an unspecified amount of new material and finished Glasshouse after her daughter was born. The album's standard edition closes with the lone song where the references to Ware's life are specific. Written before she had informed her mother of her pregnancy, "Sam" -- named after her husband -- articulates a mix of joy, gratitude, and anxiety via a predominantly acoustic ballad with a familiar poky gait (an Ed Sheeran collaboration indeed). A listener oblivious to Ware's private life wouldn't know the full circumstances in which the other songs were written. When Ware sings about missing her baby on "Thinking About You," she means her newborn, with the sweetly yearning "I just wanna feel every little beat when I'm thinking 'bout you" the only obvious indicator that she's not referring to her partner. Glasshouse incorporates the work of over a dozen producers and roughly twice as many additional songwriters. Though Ware co-wrote all the songs and is in full command from start to finish, the album has a stitched-together quality that starts to slowly unravel during the second half. The glistening "Last of the True Believers," a coup of a collaboration (though not a full-scale duet) with the Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan, tightens it up with Ware fantasizing about an intimate retreat from the city. That song deserves widespread maximum rotation, along with "Midnight," an exquisite pre-album single co-written and co-produced by wisest collaborative match Pop Wansel (Alessia Cara's "Here," Kehlani's "Distraction").
by Andy Kellman