Label: Blue Flowers
Released: 5th February 2021
Puma Blue’s music is strictly for the twilight hours. Think late nights, street lights, the stillness of the early AM. His early EPs sunk you into the depths of your feels, but his debut album is here to shake that up. In Praise of Shadows could similarly soundtrack your 3am overthinking, but it offers a glimmer of hope to lift you out of your stresses.
The fourteen tracks set his experimental jazz against a gloomy backdrop, creating something distinctly escapist. Much like his earlier releases, intimacy takes centre stage for the artist. His raw, distinctive vocals cut through the languorous beats, weavings of love, loss and learning. From the delicate and tender ‘Velvet Leaves’ to the euphorically romantic ‘Sheets’, each track feels like a diary entry filtered through a sepia-toned lens. There’s a cinematic quality to the artist’s slow, bluesy tracks that is completely gorgeous.
A fervour and passion lingers on the edges of the album – the percussion on ‘Oil Slick’ is borderline feverish. It gives the album an optimism that has perhaps been missing in the artist’s previous releases. Of course, there are still tracks on the album which contemplate bitterness and being let down, but the album shines in its moments of pure, undiluted love and adoration. ‘Bath House’ is a prime example – dancing around the L-word, it instead manages to perfectly chronicle the early stages of a love story. Intense infatuation and the heady rush that comes with it is immaculately evoked on the track, with an elated conclusion in the wistful sax.
A lot of Puma Blue’s music may have been born out of insomnia, but ‘In Praise of Shadows’ is ready-made to soothe your mind and sing you to sleep. The final track, ‘Super Soft’ captures this through its hazy vocals and acoustics. It’s harmonic and angelic; the perfect ending. If the rest of the album is permeated by dusk and dark, ‘Super Soft’ is the sun coming up, and the sky slowly fading from lilac and pink to blue. For an album that seeks the light in the darkness, it is ironically just that: In Praise of Shadows is precisely the dreamy light it desperately searches for.