Best Vancouver albums of 2016: Sophia Danai – ‘Love Royale’ (self-released)

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The three years that followed Sophia Danai’s 2013 debut album Wishing Well were filled with immense personal growth. She moved to Los Angeles, ended a long-term relationship, returned to school, and worked with numerous artists, expanding her list of collaborators to include SonReal, Madchild, Shad, Purity Ring, Chin Injeti, and even Talib Kweli. All of those emotional, educational, and creative experiences have culminated in her second full-length Love Royale, an honest and motivational album on which she doesn’t just dwell on her past but marches forward with confidence and an optimistic, independent spirit, hopeful about new beginnings.

Downtempo electronic beats and R&B grooves fill Love Royale, especially during its more tempestuous moments. But she shows off her more tender side with sparse piano pop-ballads like “To All the Lovers” and the airy “Permanent”. Still though, the album’s centrepiece is Danai’s dynamic, powerhouse voice.

Rebounding from heartbreak and taking back control of her life also meant taking creative control of Love Royale. Not only did Danai self-release her album, but she co-produced it with Vancouver rapper Matt Brevner. “Daytime Dreaming” is the exception, featuring the touch of Grammy Award-winning producer Jon Brown who has worked with pop stars including Meghan Trainor and Pink.

Love Royale is a self-aware, empowering album, a record of an artist coming into her own both musically and personally.

Standout track – “How I Roll”

See the rest of my picks at Vancouver Weekly.

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