It’s not difficult to find great soul singers in Chicago, but to find one as magnetic and impressive as Johari Noelle is hard. The Southside singer has a long music history that has informed her music, resulting in some instantly catchy songs. On her debut EP, Things You Can’t Say Out Loud, Noelle explicitly outlines themes that are rarely expressed so directly than they are on this fantastic collection of songs.
Noelle’s voice is ethereal and alluring throughout the album, finding its groove early on in the opening track “Crazy Lonely”. The song plays with an interesting dichotomy that is mirrored not only in its title, but the complete shift in tone within the song. The first half drive along, wonderfully introducing you to the album with vibey instrumentals and Noelle’s voice fitting squarely in the R&B cadence; singing about going crazy with over thinking about possible indiscretions of a partner. But as the latter half of the song appears, everything slows down and allows for a more melancholy timbre to take over. Now the song hopes for and pleads for better as Noelle’s voice practically aches to be heard.
The duality introduced in “Crazy Lonely” cues listeners to be on the look out for some deeper meanings across Things You Can’t Say Out Loud. Not everything is as simple as it seems and Noelle expertly guides you through her themes. “Release” and “Show Me” feel like companion pieces on the album. The former finds Noelle at her most sensual on the EP as she serenades listeners with lines rife with intimate heaviness. Noelle’s voice tenderly dances around the instrumentals before leading into her seductive opening lines of “I’ll do everything I can to show you everything I am”. The song is a slow jam worthy of the best and exudes sexual intimacy. “Show Me” trades the slower and carnal rhythms for a more all-encompassing emotional desire. It’s so sincere in its desire to be understood and understand, embracing the possibilities of what showing yourself to a partner can bring.
While the verses’ and their travels through love and over thinking are nuanced and invite conversation about them, it’s the songs’ hooks that truly take the spotlight. Literally every time a song would reach its peak, a memorable chorus would erupt from the track. The gentle rapid lines of “Too Much” roll into an exclamation of the title that feels straight out of a classic 90s R&B track. On “Regrets” Noelle’s almost whispered chants of “should have done, could have done, would’ve done better” layered underneath her rising cries of “Don’t want to live with regrets” are majestic. It’s a perfect moment on the EP that gets better with every listen.
With only five songs on Things You Can’t Say Out Loud, it’s incredibly obvious to say I wish there was more. These five tracks are incredibly well crafted and never over stay their welcome. If anything they are so entrancing that you’ll find yourself listening to them over and over again. If anything, this collection shows that Johari Noelle has a lot more to say and I’ll be patiently waiting to here every beautifully sung word.