Nadia Reid's debut record arrived late in 2015, and despite being warmly received it did seem to suffer slightly from the swathe of best-of lists that tend to dominate the music press at the end of the year. Nevertheless, it was an excellent debut from the then 24-year-old, especially given that some of the songs on the record were written by Reid at a remarkably young age. Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs displayed an impressively assured approach to the kind of new folk that artists like Laura Marling have had such success with. Lyrically, it often exhibited maturity beyond her years, but also frequently found her wrestling with uncertainties about relationships and exposed a suspicious attitude toward love. Whereas her debut found her stumbling into the world confused, startled, and not yet fully formed (albeit articulating it rather brilliantly), Preservation finds Reid less reactive and more reflective.
Much like Formation, this record is often dusted lightly with melancholy, but the overall feel is far more positive, the atmosphere less claustrophobic. On Formation's "Ruby," she sang, "Bittersweet I am when it comes to young love," yet Preservation's meditative title track optimistically muses, "I know I will find the one to hold onto." While some of Formation's tracks had a few moments of mild oversensitivity, these ruminations feel more seasoned and are all the more insightful for it. Here, the earnestness of her debut is swapped for wryness on tracks like "Richard," who is gently mocked for liking "the sound of his own voice in the kitchen by the mirror." Harsher, yet even more amusing, is her takedown of an oppressively small town in "Reach My Destination": "There were two little words that I used/one was fuck, the other was you." And musically this record is a little looser and more playful, with some of the songs trading in quiet folk for more of a dustbowl country swagger. Still, she's not afraid of space and sparsity when the song calls for it. "Hanson St., Pt. 1" benefits greatly from the minimalist yet lush marriage of simple fingerpicking and her vocals. It's a record in perpetual motion, and the following track picks up the pace with the wonderful, Fleetwood Mac-esque 'Right on Time,' which is served captivatingly by the cascading notes that Reid delivers. Much like 'Seasons Change' stood out on Formation, 'I Come Home to You' is undoubtedly the star of the show here. Here she exhibits her artistry most successfully by matching the quiet theatricality of the music with tensions between settling for warm familiarities versus embarking on adventures. As she sings, "We see things in a different light/ I'm looking outward into the night/I wanted to be like you/take me home smoke me out," her yearning melody is served by the drama of the drum fills, and the steel guitar's unabashed play for the heartstrings. All in all, Preservation is a fine record that finds this young artist really hitting her stride. ~ Bekki Bemrose