Jorja Smith’s Debut EP Delights With Spoken Word, Soul, and Maverick Sabre

Written by Jack Andrew Cribb

Hot off the release of her latest single Something In The Way, new name in the Soul and R & B game Jorja Smith has dropped her debut EP Project 11. The buzz for this EP was kept constant as Smith has been releasing track after track within the past week, which has two unreleased pieces on it. One would assume the excitement for this EP would have been dulled by these early releases, yet Project 11 proves to be just as exciting and beautiful, if not more so, as a full release. The EP itself contains four tracks and one interlude, coming in at just over seventeen and a half minutes. It is seventeen and a half minutes’ worth listening to.

On Thursday we wrote an article about the release of Project 11’s opening track, Something In The Way, which is a heavily blues-influenced piece, choral and well-textured. For us it marked the beginning of a more mature sound for Smith, who had previously released singles such as her debut single Blue Lights, which was deeply rooted in an R & B aesthetic, going as far as to sample Dizzee Rascal’s track Sirens  (credit: The Beggars Group). Something In The Way was a mark of experimentation for Smith, one that most definitely worked.

Project 11 continues with So Lonely, a down-tempo melancholic piece which deals with the solitude of moving to a new place. Smith’s repertoire is heavily invested in the autobiographical, as So Lonely details the emotions Smith went through when moving to London by herself. Smith recounts “There were times of feeling so lonely, but now I’m not so lonely.” There is a sense of hopefulness to this piece, as the piano that takes place as the only other sound slowly rises in pitch and tempo towards the finale, leaving the song on a happy, and somewhat cathartic note.

The EP continues with both the song Carry Me Home, and an interlude placed just before it. Carry Me Home (Interlude) itself is an incredibly well-thought out piece, fitting neatly into the middle of the EP, giving you a moment to reflect on all you have heard thus far. It is a spoken-word piece, a piece of poetry rather than a piece of music, although Smith works hard to blur the line between these two art-forms, the walls of those genres being not at all as rigid as we would like to think.

Smith speaks softly, ‘You make me feel like the unrequited lover. I don’t wanna follow you around until you find the truth. But I’d rather not kiss every stranger until I find you.’ This track is a wise glimpse at the destructive and loving nature of relationships, temporary in its 1:06 length, yet infinite in its tentative grasp of the minor and the major parts to ‘love’, and the complex structures of those involved ‘There’s planets in my palms, if you get bored of my skin, I’m in change with the moon. Habitual rituals. Your smiling and light is my only residual.’ Even though it is the shortest track, it is an absolute treasure to listen to.

This leads on into Carry Me Home, a wonderfully soulful piece featuring the talented Maverick Sabre, beginning with a cute and complicated little guitar riff, and continuing into Smith’s rich and textured crooning, which is then replaced by the voice of Sabre. Carry Me Home is probably the most intricate track on the EP, tightly composed and set apart from the rest by the duo of these two powerful singers.

Project 11 is soulful, dramatic, thoughtful, and warm, ending on the high note of Imperfect Circle, the quickest and most summery of this EP, showcasing Smith’s vocal range as she hits some very high notes, and bringing back some of the R & B influence with which we first fell in love with Smith’s music. This is all blended in with a choral vibe which you feel on Something In The Way, which serves to bring the EP to a sort of cyclical close, just waiting for the cycle to begin again. It is well-intended when Smith sings ‘Round and round and round and round/ And round and round we go/ Round and round in circles/ Like we got no place to go.’

Displacement is a theme which comes up in much of Project 11, where Smith sings of the in-betweens of relationships, or that of homes. The words reside in the uncertain plains of existence where curiosity, hopefulness, and helplessness go hand in hand, melting into one another. It is an evocative thing to think of in terms of Smith’s short career, but it is a fear that should be assuaged. For all its talk of questioning and dislocation, Project 11, makes us certain of one thing, that Jorja Smith is here, and she is here to stay.

Listen to the gorgeous Carry Me Home (including interlude) here:

Credit: Kings Selection


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