With a voice as soulful as Shelly Bhushan’s, Something Out Of Nothing could have taken a straight R&B route, and she could have thrown in boatloads of melisma to impress. Instead, she’s turned in an album full of interesting, unexpected arrangements and thoughtful lyrics, and presented them with her gorgeous, versatile voice. Something Out Of Nothing is a stealth charmer.
The title track somehow feels both sinister and majestic, and highlights her silky low register, bursting into pure bright force on the chorus with bonus ’80s-style keyboard. The intensity doesn’t relent on the next track: Bhushan attacks the nervous jangle of “Flickering” with a full-throated wail. “Who Do You Think You Are” boasts a tight funk bassline, with sass and fiery strength in her voice.
She fares well on slower songs, like the sultry and slow-burning “Intoxication.” “Moon” is particularly gorgeous. The subtle piano helps to showcase her rich voice, hushed with yearning, as well as her effortless shift into high register. “Unrequited Love Song” is crushing and honest, acoustic and lovely. The dreamy “Blinded” is a moving love song and quietly powerful.
Something Out Of Nothing performs the neat trick of being perfectly evocative of a place (New York City) without explicitly mentioning it in every song. You can feel the heartbeat of the city in her songs and the passion she feels for it. “Digging In Deep” uses the sounds of the urban environment: church bells, subways, ambient street noises. These are added to the stew of her molten velvet voice and uplifting, defiant lyrics along with some crazy harmonies that make this folky/funky song truly joyful.
Shelly Bhushan has an amazing, stunning voice and a great sense of identity as a songwriter and performer. Something Out Of Nothing is one of those records that you want to press into people’s hands and make them hear. It’s truly wonderful.