Eliza Sophie Caird, first known to the world as Eliza Doolittle, and now ELIZA, has not had a usual musical career path. Her first album, self-titled as her initial persona, reached number three on the UK album charts – fuelled by two UK top 40 hits: Skinny Genes and Pack Up. The latter of which peaked at number five on the Singles Chart. This cheesy pop number is what most people know her for. Thankfully, much has changed.
ELIZA is now a whole new kettle of fish: a shortened name went hand-in-hand with a total rebrand – swapping Parlophone Records out for two self-releases on ELIZA Records. This new identity and its accompanying music can only be described as sensual soul perfection.
Eliza’s new music has much in common with the wave of amazing female artists producing seriously good and seriously soulful pop. Think Charlotte Dos Santos, Raveena, Cleo Sol, Kadhja Bonet, and Amber Mark – except Eliza is darker, more unique, and – both lyrically and musically – more sensual. This was true of her first self-release, 2018’s A Real Romantic¸ and even more so on the latest full-length album, 2022’s A Sky Without Stars. Her latest, the 2023 single A Midnight Rose carries this trend on as expected.
Both are perfect albums – all killer, no filler, and no tracks I’d be tempted to skip. Yet they also display a marked evolution. A Real Romantic is a lovely album which anyone would enjoy whole-heartedly – catchy, romantic, and infinitely listenable.
A Sky Without Stars, however, is the more interesting one. It is dark and brooding, with tasteful minimalism, space, and gently distorted basslines – pushed right to the front of the mix – and so shares more similarities with D’Angelo than the pop-soul of Amy Winehouse. And what basslines they are; the album’s opening track is as hard as nails and as catchy as the flu.
London’s influences are clear as day in this album – taking inspiration from the OG 140 dubstep and grime that originated in London in the first decade and a bit of the 2000s. Big, distorted basslines, minimalist production, and dark and gritty timbres – with some sounds of the original 606, 707, and 808 drum machines that are the foundation to so much dance music.
What is more remarkable still is the production. There is next to no delay, echo, or reverb throughout the whole album, which leaves a huge amount of space within the tracks and between the individual sounds. It creates a minimalism that just shouldn’t be as enticing as it is.
Inversely, the vocals are not the star of the show here; they have a slurred, drunken quality which at times mean the individual words become almost unrecognisable. This is not a flaw in the mix. Instead, it just furthers the ambiance - which takes on an almost live quality, as if it was played in the steamiest, most tasteful, and least pretentious nightclub, lounge, or bar you can imagine.
ELIZA knows just what she is doing. The sounds and accompanying vibe of this album are pushed to their gritty, brooding extremes. The lyrics only further this, which (in both albums) are raunchy and romantic, and not just with subtle nods and double-entendres either. Both albums are pure feminine, sexual energy – talking about lust and love in a refreshingly realistic way.
In a world where the male gaze defines the boundaries and expectations of sexuality, this is courageous. Furthermore, it doesn’t resort to low-hanging fruit. It isn’t lurid or exploitative, and it doesn’t promote or uphold stereotypes, body standards, or objectification. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing her live performances yet (but she is playing in London in November), I have heard her live performances are as enticing and sensual as her music.
This article is not intended as purely an album or artist review – but merely as a letter of love and respect to Eliza Sophie Caird, who chose artistic integrity over further fame and fortune. She found stardom, made her buck, and then found infinitely greener pastures.
Words DOMINIC ALSTON