Sheenah Ko is nothing if not a workhorse. She has toured the world with her band Besnard Lakes and legendary musical acts like Lou Reed, The Band, and Barenaked Ladies. And even though she’s had the raw deal of having to promote her sophomore album Nowhere in Time during a worldwide pandemic, she been releasing live streamed content every week. After being a supporting player for so long, she undeniably deserves a chance to be in the spotlight. On Nowhere in Time, she sounds like a wallflower finally blossoming and demanding to be seen. Despite bloating, an overall unevenness, and some clunky lyrics, this album is solid proof that Ko is ready to be the star of her show.
Though driving analog synths and transfixing beats have been her bread and butter, the thing that impressed me most about Ko is her voice. Ko is very much a student of the ‘90s. She channels the art-house whimsy of Bjork, the sensuality of PJ Harvey, and the raw vulnerability of Tori Amos. On “See You,” her influences are worn on her sleeve but her sweet, yet unapologetic, delivery is uniquely hers. You can practically see her jumping from behind the mixing board no longer willing to be standing in the shadows. As impressive as that song is, “Bialystok” is the real winner here. It’s the moment Ko goes full pop in the best kind of way. She’s sexy but tough. You can look but you dare not fuck with her. The song’s French lyrics, hypnotic house beats, and late ’90s Madonna vibe make for the album’s most startling, toe-tapping, and memorable moment.
Nowhere in Time is sure to get you grooving, but it’s also certain to exhaust you before you make it to the end. If you were in a club (and on a lot of drugs) it might not make a difference but otherwise, this album is too long. I get the title track is supposed to set the mood, however, it also stays too true to its name. This album is supposed to be getting you to dance, not practicing mindfulness. It sticks out like a sore thumb. “Taste So Good” suffers a worse fate. It drones on and on for eleven-minutes and for some reason has a separate track that acts as an intro that adds nothing to the already meandering song. Cut these three songs of the tracklist, and you’d have a very solid synth-pop record.
A lesser qualm I have is regarding the lyrics. Now, the album is effective enough in that you will never really notice them as the instrumentation and Ko’s singing overpower the proceedings, but jeez there are some cringy one-liners! Ko’s delivery is consistently sultry but lines like “Let me right into those cracks in your joints, I know you like it” and “Taste so good, I’m going to eat it all up” are terrifyingly awkward and might be enough to send a potential suitor running. Those are the kind of words I might have scribbled in my hormone-fueled teenage journal. Again, if you turn off your mind and don’t pay too close attention this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Ultimately, I think Nowhere in Time is a transitional album for Sheenah Ko in that it struggles to find its identity. Is it relaxing and ambient or a sensual experience on the dancefloor? The best moments are when Ko takes charge and becomes the frontwoman she was always destined to be. I hope she continues this trajectory and I get to see her front and centre in the upcoming years.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy