The Welsh singer-songwriter has released a new album Cannot Be, Whatsoever. This iridescent new release marks the second solo album by Novo Amor.
Known for songs such as ‘Birthplace’, ‘Carry You’ and ‘Anchor’, ethereal singer-songwriter Novo Amor (also known as Ali Lacey) is back with his new album ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’.
The conceptualisation of the new album also came after the dust had finally settled on a whirlwind 18 months of touring around the world with his earlier solo album, ‘Birthplace’.
Finally, Lacey returned to Wales and in the enveloping winter of 2019, he sat down in his studio to reflect.
The experiences of the recent past began to take shape as the ideas that would become the second Novo Amor album -’Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ – slowly came into focus.
The result is a stunning piece of work that showcases the coruscating light in somewhat unprecedented times. Even the album’s artwork is an interesting piece of creativity that shows the nuances of life much like the little bunch of memories that you would keep in a tin box.
The album’s artwork is done by Dutch visual artist Tilleke Schwarz, who credits her embroidered work to the influence of the oddities of life – teems with shape, colour and invention.
Describing the art, Lacey says this,
“Tilleke’s art is kind of an analogy for both my writing process and how the artwork depicts it: a box struggling to house a myriad of scattered objects.”
For his audience, one of the many answers would almost certainly be “more optimistic”. In comparison to the melancholy of much of his back catalogue, the tone of ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ is a marked shift toward the light.
“I like that the last phrase of the first song on the album – ‘Opaline’ – is “now I feel like I’m finally me”.
But elsewhere the lyrics are tempered with caution, evidenced by the self-lacerating doubt in ‘No Plans’ – “Here’s to betting I spend my life wrong, sitting at home, staring at the wall”.
The song, ‘I Feel Better’, sits at the very heart of Novo Amor’s (Aberystwyth-born Ali Lacey) new record, and comes after the opalescence of well… ‘Opaline’.
Within its exquisite 3 minutes, ‘I Feel Better’ flawlessly captures the self-professed “shift towards the light’ that (in Lacey’s own words) runs throughout his second album. It’s a shift that is masterfully reflected in the song-writing across ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ as Lacey finds himself slowly emerging from the engulfing shadows of heartbreak, delicately but defiantly optimistic.
The accompanying video for ‘I Feel Better’, which has been directed by Amsterdam-based Lisette Donkersloot, tells its own story of recovering from lost love through a particular lens. By closely exploring the lyrics and melody, the new video works wonderfully to untangle the very different and very deep sides of Novo Amor’s music.
On how this informed the album-making process, Lacey is contemplative.
“It’s hard to say if making an album through a pandemic had any negative effects on the music. It kept me indoors. It put my future on hold and made my career and so many aspects of my ‘normal’ life feel irrelevant. In some ways I liked that, and I think to an extent it alleviated some of my anxiety about needing to deliver something.”
The pandemic also afforded him an opportunity to consider his songs from the perspective of his audience.
“It allowed me to appreciate why people need art and music at a fundamental level, as an escape, as something to hold onto and fall in love with. It can be a friend when they can’t go outside, creating a moment of calm or evoking nostalgia from their life before. The thought that you can create things out of thin air that affect people so deeply… sometimes it can really overwhelm.”
He contemplates a past soundtracked by songs of quiet hope and longing.
“I can still see Round Lake, Woodgate and my time in upstate New York when I picture ‘Birthplace’. The songs feel surrounded by evergreens, sheltered by this place I’ve romanticised, that doesn’t actually exist anymore. These new songs feel immediate and noisy in comparison. If ‘Birthplace’ is the countryside, then ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ is the city.”
Whilst the pleasure of releasing this universally-loved work and the incredible experiences of being on the road have all fed significantly into ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’, there’s also a sense of weight and an almost unconscious solemnity that comes from missing the quiet and calm of home.
Ultimately, ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ is a poignant, thoughtful but optimistic record about moving on from things you’ve lost and celebrating all that you have.
Listen to his new album ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ below.
Novo Amor will also be making a hugely anticipated return to live shows in April 2021. It will be an incredible opportunity to see the new album played live. The tour will kick off in Dublin on April 23rd, take in many of the UK and Europe’s major cities before culminating in Lacey’s hometown of Cardiff on the 22nd May. From here, he will travel to cities in Asia such as Taipei, Singapore, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Beijing, as well as Sao Paolo and Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.
More information on his tour dates here.
Cover photo: Daniel Alexander Harris
Embroidery: Aline Brant