Seattle indie artist Shelita Burke fuses soul with jazz and folk flavours on her latest release, an EP entitled Transfixed. In the last two years, Burke has managed to basically set herself on a world tour with stops in Canada, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, and Wales where a number of listeners have enjoyed her “emotional art music”.
One show at a time, Burke has built enough of a solid fan base to propel her debut EP at number 14 on the best-selling album list on Amazon. Released last November, Transfixed is made up of five unique tracks with single word titles, words that do not seem to have any connection with each other: “Else”, “Transfixed”, “Pour”, “Gold”, and “Swim”. There is also a sixth bonus track, a live version of “Transfixed” recorded in Ireland.
In the opening mid-tempo title track, two acoustic guitars accompany Burke’s crystal clear vocals which border on the sweet side, reminiscent of many a young artist from the early 1990s—I’m thinking particularly of a clearer version of Jewel’s vocals. The rather poetic-sounding and ethereal melody and vocals contrast with the topic the lyrics touch upon, that of our obsessive dependence on communication technologies which, although meant to bring together people, seem to be instead creating distance between us.
Burke doesn’t take long to demonstrate that her vocals can also go lower—a lot lower, actually, in “Pour”, a melancholic ballad built on two guitars, delicate percussions, and backing female vocals twittering in and out. It does well to reflect the pain that comes when one pours oneself into a relationship only for it to not work out. In contrast, the calm warmth of “Gold” underlines the tragedy of homelessness, of feeling alone, disconnected, and unloved. Burke’s vocals, which were already noteworthy up to this point, become particularly so as she seems to hit as many notes, if not more, than her guitar does.
The soothing melody of “Swim” reminds me of the lulling effects of swimming laps, which makes me wonder if the title and the act of swimming are related. I found the themes in this track much more subjective than the others, in that each listener will take home a very different lesson. For me, it felt like this one is a commentary on the importance of controlling one’s lower nature to be able to stay afloat and swim forward in life. The delicate “Else” reflects on the vagaries of life that make us miss meeting the right person at the right time.
With this set of five sparsely built yet complex songs, none of which seem to have used any sort of special effects, Burke is highlighting some important personal and social themes we should deeply reflect on. She chooses to create a safe, warm, and calm environment, one that encourages us to lower our defences and figure out these important issues, making her EP all the more powerful. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the artist is available on her official website and Facebook page.
Pictures provided by RMG.