The multitalented Alabama songwriter battles with self-doubt across his atmospheric album ‘azure’.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Having made waves throughout the underground following his 2018 debut mixtape, ‘Mixed Emotions’, the Alabama rapper/singer/songwriter continues to grow from strength to strength, with his catalogue now boasting a wealth of sumptuous releases. ‘azure’ is the latest gem in Swagú’s discography, with its vibrant blend of Hip-Hop and Contemporary R&B producing a comprehensive body of work, showing the excellent strides he’s made as both an artist and engineer across his relatively short, yet prolific career.

Formulated on intimate topics and soulful passages, ‘azure’ offers a sweeping overview of Swagú’s ambivalent relationship with love. Opening with the tranquillity of ‘true colors (Intro)’, the versatile singer induces a reflective atmosphere, where the melancholic piano melody, emotive strings, and wearied vocal effects present him in a delicate and vulnerable state. This fragility proceeds to materialise across different forms throughout the album, and can be heard most prominently on the touching track, ‘clouds (Interlude)’. Administering a similar hypnotic atmosphere to that of the opening track, the singing birds, delicate arpeggio, and vocoder plugin produce some beautiful imagery, as Swagú’s dejected, yet poetic lyric; “my whole life, had my head in the clouds, you were the only one to bring me back down” reveals a sense of dependency within this relationship.

Stream ‘azure’ by Louis Swagú on Spotify.

The intricacies of a stable relationship is an element which is repeatedly explored throughout ‘azure’, and on occasion sees Swagú acknowledging the trade-off between attachment and interdependence. ‘one-sided love’ explores the ‘reliance’ aspect of devotion, with the desolate trap beat setting the stage for the haunting sample vocals, which follow Swagú throughout his passionate, slick verses. As he finds himself in an erratic state having “already planned my future with you”, the Alabama rapper proceeds to state, “I know what I’m worth”, repeating this phrase as if he himself needs convincing by his own lyrics. The following track ‘too beautiful’ immediately challenges these remarks, with the reminiscent instrumental, punchy kick drum and introspective lyrics presenting Swagú in a state of self-doubt, as he downheartedly sings, “she’s out of my league”. Similar insecurities are recognised on the penultimate title track, where the distorted mix and cry of “she’s too good for me” do an excellent job of painting his disconcerted mindset.

Louis Swagú’s introspective songwriting plays a key role in the success of azure’.

Tracks such as ‘better without’ and ‘wheres my phone?’ offer an alternative outlook on love, the former being a high-tempo acoustic cut, which almost has a pop-punk feel to it given the pronounced vocals and adolescent themes of lust. But while addressing the toxicity which exists across many relationships, Swagú undergoes a noticeable shift in mentality, acknowledging that while love may have turned to heartache, the highs ensure it was “better to love than never ever have started”. On the flip side, the lively, retro acoustic track ‘wheres my phone?’ deals with the aftermath of heartbreak, as Swagú pleads, “I don’t wanna feel this way no more”, while failing to escape the painful memories of a past relationship.

The versatility of the American is what makes ‘azure’ such an enthralling listen, and his ability to pinpoint exactly when to apply these traits is extremely impressive. The bold chorus on ‘tolbert’ offers a prime example of this, where he erupts from the serenity of the opening track, with his defiant vocals complimenting the fierce mix in what is an impassioned ode to the place he calls his home. Following up with the funky grooves of the vibrant Indie-Pop track, ‘butterflies’, Swagú showcases the sophistication and flexibility of his vocals, harmonising with the gracious Pauline Mykell in a manner which evokes so much warmth and sensuality. This versatility extends beyond his singing and can also be found within his impactful lyricism, such as the potent, “two shadows, but I’m alone in the valley” line which epitomises the sombre tone of ‘two shadows’, and ties in with the cinematic strings to produce some incredible imagery.

Watch the official video for ‘tolbert’ on YouTube.

‘dusk (Outro)’ closes the album with Swagú in a ruminative state, where the uplifting percussion and spoken word outro states, “the love comes from within now”. This passage demonstrates self-compassion and personal growth, and ties the album together in cohesive fashion. A particularly atmospheric album, ‘azure’ does an emphatic job of balancing Swagú’s songwriting and rapping abilities, and tying this in with the spacious ambience, which graces the instrumentation with a certain allure. From the tight production, focused topics, and dynamic vocal displays, Swagú’s latest album is an absorbing listen from top to bottom.

Favourite Tracks: tolbert, butterflies (Feat. pauline mykell), clouds (Interlude), two shadows

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