Album Review: Nicole Saphos Band – Figure Eights

Nicole Saphos showcases her creative free-flowing sound but also a tonne of vulnerability and heart on her latest LP Figure Eights

Alternative indie artist Nicole Saphos is somebody that has consistently reaffirmed herself as a unique thinker, endlessly creative and nuanced when it comes to her sound and its arrangements and styles that it encompasses. On her latest album Figure Eights the artist gets to continue to showcase her distinctive personality and charm across a selection of tracks that highlight the different quirks and facets of her sound, and all of the wonderful moments that that brings.

This ethos and approach is exemplified on ‘Spend a Little Time’, an excellent choice to open the album as it features all of Nicole’s signature quirks and stylistic hallmarks. Everything from its genre-skipping nature, to its boundless creativity, to its off-kilter harmonies and structure feels intrinsically Nicole Saphos, and lyrics surrounding themes like anxiety and longing make for a track that feels as memorable for its message as its musicality.

‘Keepin’ Eyes’ follows and is the track that has served as the lead single from the LP. The track showcases Nicole’s sound at its most accessible and catchy, while still maintaining the idiosyncratic charm that permeates the artist’s work. The guitar work from John Lee on the track feels especially gorgeous and rousing, as the track provides the album with one of its most clever and charming moments.

This fully formed indie rock banger is then replaced with something more sombre, as ‘Stoic Companion’ and especially ‘And Only’ take a more stripped back approach to the artist’s sounds, with the former showcasing the lush power that the artist’s incredible instrumental arrangements can hold over a listener, masterfully skillful in its sense of composure and poise.

Nicole Saphos Band’s more funk-laden and improvisational tendencies come to the fore on ‘Tryin’ To Be’, on a track that calls back to the eclectic roots of the artist’s previous work, but with this renewed sense of polish and nuance that is characteristic of Figure Eights throughout. A wonderful example of the expansive nature of the artist’s sound and how it has grown and changed while holding onto what made people love Nicole in the first place.

The next few tracks truly just feel like the band having a good time and crafting the exciting and creative sounds that come naturally to them. The whimsical interlude ‘Thoughts Over You’ has the kind of controlled chaos that the artist’s jazz-influenced tendencies bring to the fore, and this improvisational spirit and feelgood charm flows into its follow up, ‘My Intention’, a driving rock song that loses itself within its engaging instrumental segments.

The album then goes from furiously pulling guitar strings to delicately tugging on heartstrings on the bittersweet balladry of ‘On Hand’. Themes like time travel and alternative lives add a dose of absurdity and an abstract nature to a track that provides the album with some of its most emotional moments.

‘More’ is the second single from the album and provides a light-hearted juxtaposition to ‘Anything More?’, the track that follows it. ‘More’ has an anthemic and driving quality to it that feels irresistible at times, rising in energy and charm, building to a rewarding climax that encapsulates the spirit of this side of the artist. ‘Anything More?’ provides a stark contrast to this, highlighting Nicole at her most poignant and vulnerable. No weaving arrangements or arrays of sounds here, just the artist’s voice and a ukulele, making for a really human and moving end to an album that is stacked full of moments of creativity and bombast.

Figure Eights is a wonderful piece of work that showcases a lot of different facets and sides to Nicole Saphos, her band and their work, while always maintaining the unique sense of composure and appeal that comes with the artist’s idiosyncratic charm. No matter which direction that she strays in or how far she pushes the confines of her sound, there is always something resoundingly alluring and memorable about the personality that she weaves into her work, providing a grounding, solidifying base for her wandering, creative creations.