Just Leila – ‘Just For Me’ EP

The debut EP from Just Leila, Just For Me consumes with a sound spanning from hypnotic French pop to Afro-beat atmospherics. An enchanting production combines with an impactful lyrical emphasis, emitting the importance of authenticity, liberation, and joy. The lyrics incorporate Arabic Moroccan, French, and English — reflective of the artist’s having grown up in Morocco, with French influences.

Just For Me is like a creative mantra of sorts,” Leila explains. “Something I needed for myself in order to protect my creativity and keep it sacredly mine until I was ready to share it out. I wanted to gift myself this safe space, this blank canvas, so I could really open up.”

The opening “bits of pieces” hypnotizes with its soulful escalation. Warming keys pulse alongside thumping percussion and smooth vocal immersion, with clanging piano and wordless vocal backing captivating into the second minute. Brassy spurts dazzle alongside here, crafting an infectious intrigue into the “people need a story,” refrain and ensuing vocal dreaminess. “bits of pieces” is a versatile soul-pop success that kicks off the EP with colorful enticement, alongside artful lyrics conveying the interconnectedness of all things.

“bébé?” follows with a grooving charm as well, this time adorned with French lyrics and gorgeous vocal layers. “Je veux un bébé,” the vocals yearn, followed by baby-talk; the track captures a significant moment in one life, as a couple pursues the jump into parenthood, and a hope for being on the same page. “don’t be alarmed” treads in darker waters, with eerie piano and ruminating percussion guiding alongside cautionary vocals; there’s a darkly intoxicating hint of trip-hop that persists with enthralling details.

An eclectic tonal range impresses on “more than dna,” which swells from brooding, spacious introspection into a sitar-y frolicking — as chilling vocals produce a striking title-touting refrain. The track title itself, and accompanying lyrics, enforce a strong sense of self — unbridled from the barriers of being solely determined by biological factors. The smoky soulfulness of “desert song” lets out an acknowledgement of personal growth — “just a little water I can make it bloom” from the desert landscape — and continues gripping themes of self-confidence and growth.

The EP closes with the stirring title track; “Just For Me” weaves a spoken-word narrative and haunting singing wordlessness, alongside spine-tingling piano into the apt final statement: “It just feels so freeing to block everything else out / Because I don’t always give myself that space in the real world / And I can gift myself the space to be whoever the fuck I want.”

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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