Nilüfer Yanya conquers pop, rock, and the universe | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Nilüfer Yanya conquers pop, rock, and the universe

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On the new double album Miss Universe (ATO), British singer Nilüfer Yanya straddles the line between indie rock and pop. It’s catchy, hip, and radio ready, with a perfect production sheen that helps the music’s disparate influences slide smoothly one into another. “In Your Hand” sounds like it came from the new wave era of the 80s, with crunchy guitars and Yanya singing with clipped robotic precision—and occasionally breaking into an equally robotic falsetto yodel. “Paradise” is chill-out trip-hop, complete with lounge sax and bubbling electronic beat. “Monsters Under the Bed” is based on the type of stripped-down acoustic-guitar number favored by the likes of Cat Power, with Yanya moving into her upper register to warble like Sinead O’Connor. And “Safety Net” is a full-on pop song, with a ridiculously big anthem chorus (“I'll never be a safety net / It doesn't matter what you get”) that’ll get jammed in your head for days. Even when Yanya shoots for the stadium seats, she keeps her individual touch—during an odd break in “Safety Net,” most of the instrumentation drops out and Yanya repeatedly moans “instead” against a sparse, echoey background. The title Miss Universe suggests both beauty pageants and cosmic conquest; it's Yanya’s bid for pop stardom and for validation as an eclectic artistic, and so far, she’s been remarkably successful at both.   v

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