Leila Adu might be a singer-songwriter whose instrument is the piano but she is up to something continents away from your average alt-pop artist. She makes the Regina Spektors of the world look like the Taylor Swifts of the world.
For starters, this young New Zealander of Ghanaian descent treats genre distinctions in much the same way that Godzilla treated those little cities made out of cardboard. At any given time, in any given song, she could be boiling down Middle Eastern melodies and classic vocal jazz into something like a minimalist opera starring Nina Hagen, Diamanda Galas, and Eve Libertine. The next song could be completely different.
Adu is that rare artist who can exist in many worlds at once. She’s composed for and sung with the New Zealand symphony orchestra, performed at jazz festivals and rock clubs, and Nirvana producer Steve Albini produced her last album Dark Joan.
Her newly released album Ode to The Unknown Factory Worker combines Ian Curtis’s sense of plain spoken poetry and Prefuse 73′s dissonant and forward looking sonic experiments. Her fingers are deft, her voice is agile, and her compositions are fearless and witty, so the final product is something like a collaboration between jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock and Nellie McKay — but actually much more accessible than that would be.
Listen to Adu if you’ve been a little bored with whatever is going on in your scene lately and you want to hear something really new. Watch the video for “Fortuna” off Ode to get started.