Issy Packer

Freelance music editor based in Bristol and Cornwall. If you see me shout as I’ll probably have my headphones on.

Label: EMI Records

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Messy‘ is the highly anticipated debut album from London singer Olivia Dean. Following the release of three EPs, the album is the first full-length package of work, giving her the time and space to showcase her versatile vocals and impressive lyricism.

The album opens with the track UFO, a haunting track which puts her smoky rich vocals on full display. The instrumental backing allows Dean’s lyrics and vocals to imbue the track alongside a gentle melody as she takes an otherworldly theme and transports it to the real world.

The next track is probably her most well-known single, ‘Dive’, which dives deeper into the singers soul sound as she gives the track a vintage feel through Motown backing vocals. While the title track was haunting, this one is vibrant and unafraid.

Ladies Man‘ is one of the strongest songs on the album as there is a sense of surety on the track. The inclusion of the percussion adds an extra layer that feels both nostalgic and modern. Dean knows what sound she wants to create and she’s done it to the best of her ability.

By the mid-point of the album, Dean has cemented her sound. Soft vocals and softer strings are used for a change of pace on ‘No Man‘ and ‘Dangerously Easy‘ as the singer deals with deeper themes of abandonment and lost love.

The singer swings from soul and pop to soft jazz and gospel as she includes an impressive array of instruments and backing lilts throughout the album, adding texture to the songs that could become otherwise repetitive.

There is a running theme throughout the 24 year old’s debut release – navigating life and love. These repeating tropes do not offer anything new – we’ve seen it all before from Olivia Rodrigo and Maisie Peters – but it’s Dean’s sound that makes it so distinctive.

It’s also when she breaks this mould that she is at her strongest. The soft trumpet sounds on the title track, ‘Messy‘, the stunning lyrics on Carmen‘ which pays tribute to Dean’s grandmother who was part of the Windrush generation and the sound of a modern soulful ballad on ‘Everybody’s Crazy‘ which could easily be part of a hit rom-com.

Messy‘ is an impressive debut from the young singer, one that hits a lot of the right notes – even if we have heard them before.

Listen to ‘Messy’ here: