Lydia Persaud (she/her) brings a full spectrum of emotion to her latest album, Moody31. Shimmery runs fall alongside precise enunciations that slightly quiver on pitch. A singer with daring range, she stretches words - subtly melismatic, smooth, slantly gospel - to their full emotional capacity. Set for release in April 2022, her sophomore record remodels a multitude of influences into a dynamic and harmonious original. Described by producer Scott McCannell as “Roberta Flack sitting in with Bill Withers' band at a folk festival,” Moody31 recombines jazz, R&B, and folk stylings to create soul music in its most literal sense.
It’s tempting to want to deconstruct her amalgam into its distinct parts, tracing each track’s reference points and divergencies. On ‘Let Me Be There For You,’ homage is paid to the beautifully haunting background vocals of Motown legend Mavin Gaye, while the ukulele fingerpicking on ‘Think Of Me’ is approached with the lyrical sensitivities of a storyteller. Without fidelity to a single source of inspiration, Persaud’s arrangements are kaleidoscopic: layered sounds that mimic the prismatic moods of the album. It’s here that brokenness, loss of identity, and glorified independence commingle with self-assurance, acceptance, and new beginnings.
Persaud’s silvery and ripe vocals glide over Christine Bougie’s whispery guitar lines on ‘Good For Us,’ an opener that celebrates the importance of space and self-reflection in relationships. ‘I Got You’ is a bouncy love-letter to oneself, while ‘Words for Her’ is fraught with the anticipation of saying ‘I love you’ for the first time in a blossoming romance. This is a summer album, with Persaud’s honeyed tone warming each track, but one that complicates the expected feel-good nature of the season. Imagine riding your bike through the city on a near-perfect July day, on the heels of a recent heartbreak.
The title track is a surprising instrumental strip-down: diminished and major 7th chords coast alongside lush yet anguished vocals. The effect is a deep vulnerability crossed with absolute self-possession. It’s these antithetical desires that cut to the core of Moody31: to love and be loved without losing oneself in the process.
Persaud met producer and bassist Scott McCannell of Safe Spaceship Music in 2019. “Scott and I shared the same desire to create something new while preserving the classic warmth of the 70s soul and jazz sounds we love.” The two began compiling a collection of demos that eventually became Moody31. “The baritone ukulele was the foundational instrument I used to write the record,” Persaud says. “I would teach Scott a new song, and, to avoid perfectionism, we would record a rough demo while the song was loose and fresh.” With all the bed-tracks recorded in one room, the songs have a live, jazz-combo quality. Kyla Charter and James Baley’s backing vocals are full of disco-esque call-and-response, while Chino de Villa’s steady drums lend heartbeat from start to finish.
A fixture of Toronto’s music community and a sought-after collaborator, Persaud has had a colourful decade performing to small clubs with her jazz project (2012-2016), to crate diggers with The Soul Motivators (2011-2015), to folkies at festivals with The O’Pears (2013-2019), and to rock nostalgics with Dwayne Gretzky (2017-present). She’s shared the stage with Lee Fields, Richard Bona, David Crosby, Gordon Lightfoot, Jackie Richardson, Divine Brown, and Justin Nozuka, among many others. She’s also a member of the Queer Songbook Orchestra, and host of the upcoming docuseries, New World Beat.
“After ten years of playing music, I’m beginning to bring my multiple experiences into what I’m doing. I make music to honestly connect with others who might feel the same way. I hope Moody31 celebrates and validates the human experience in all its contradictions: how new love can be experienced alongside deep loss, how one can crave solitude and connection, simultaneously. It’s beautiful to embrace all of our moods - it’s living.”