After what has been a dark and challenging year for people globally, we are starting to see the tiniest hint of light at the end of the tunnel. In the UK specifically, the measures are gradually being lifted, from what we all hope was the last lockdown. The mood is starting to be cautiously optimistic, perfect for some soulful and emotional music. Hence, when I discovered Céline & The Blue in our promo list, I knew I had landed on a hidden gem that is ideal for everyone’s spring playlist. Within & Without provides just that.
One of the joys of reviewing music albums is that you are often surprised by bands from across the world, and it is for days like these that I write on Everything Is Noise. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the Surrey, UK-based quintet that makes up Céline & The Blue. With Céline Xueref on lead vocals, the band comprises Enea Lleshi on keyboards, Jarreau Wetzels on guitar, Myles Maylon on bass, and Elliot Yarnall on drums. With members hailing from different countries across Europe, they came together while studying at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford in 2018. Their soulful, jazzy singles quickly caught the attention of the local community. They have now compiled these singles in their debut EP — Within & Without.
All the six songs on Within & Without are between the three-and-half to four-minutes mark, the industry radio standard. What sets Céline & The Blue apart from the indie masses is what they accomplish in that short duration. The first differentiator being just how good Céline Xueref vocals sound all across the EP. She has a soulful pop style that is instantly addictive, putting the listener at ease and grooving to the music. Over the course of 22 minutes, her pipes range from the relaxed and expressive vibe of “Learn To Be Alone” and “Papaya” that reminds the listeners of the likes of Lianne La Havas to the vulnerable and moving grace of Laura Marling, as exemplified in “Crave Love”.
Complementing Céline’s vocal delivery, the four members forming ‘The Blue’ four-fifth of Céline & The Blue deliver a mature variety and quality in their songwriting. The band preserves the emotional frugality of Within & Without via some refined touches in the song structure. The delicacy conveyed to the listener via the minimalistic guitars on “Crave Love” or the spacious keys on “Hide In Your World”. Moreover, given that the recording of the six singles on Within & Without took place over the span of a few years, it allows the band to showcase a larger spectrum of their sound. From the soul-funk of the likes of Vulfpeck on “Safe” to straight-up R&B akin to Anderson. Paak and the Free Nationals on “Just You,” there is enough variety to satiate most appetites.
A lot of time and thought has gone into crafting the songs on Within & Without. Through the limited lens of the six songs here, it’s hard not to notice the talent and potential Céline & The Blue possess. The mix of Céline’s soulful vocals and the band’s funk/jazz songwriting are a unique amalgamation, bound to please most listeners. The debut EP is the perfect teaser taster, and one hopes the band can use this foundation as a launchpad in the years to come.