Doe Paoro describes her sound as “ghost soul” and the terminology fits like an eerie glove. Her lingering, out-there tone is disconnected and yet wholehearted. Slow to Love, the Brooklyn-based artist’s debut record, is a succinct jaunt through slightly haunted old-school R&B, soul, pop, and funk.
There’s a lot to nod your head to, but there’s also a deeply unsettling vibe rest just under the surface. Paoro’s study of lhamo, Tibetan-style operatic singing that she came across when travelling through the Himalayas, may have something to do with that. There are also strokes of Imogen Heap, Portishead and Lykke Li to cleave to for those so inclined.
Slow to Love came into form while Paoro was “isolated in a cabin” near Syracuse, New York. There is certainly some seclusion to the textures and spaciousness of the recording, but what’s most revitalizing is the unexpected emotion. It would have been easy to slip under ostentatious influences of indie It-girl junk and evaporate, but Paoro hides nothing.
The arrangements are unassuming but sophisticated, built with Paoro’s vocals, Adam Rhodes’ piano and Yuri Hart’s cello. While there is certainly a classic ease to the compositions, there’s also something strikingly contemporary in the air.
Slow to Love opens with some beautiful harmonizing that seems otherworldly (probably because it is). Paoro’s voice floats in and out of space on the one-minute introduction before gliding into the piano-led “Born Whole.” She sings with perfect pulse and proclamation, venturing way the hell off the scale before a beat kicks in and things get real funky in a hurry.
The first single, “Can’t Leave You,” is an aching lament built with lovely chord progressions and Paoro’s suppliant vocals. “Have mercy on me,” she sings while once more ascending the scale painlessly and hitting some astonishing falsetto territory.
“Follow You Til” uses eddying vocals and sounds like there are about four versions of Paoro ringing over a humbly strummed guitar. The use of effects provides for some disaffection, espousing the vocalist’s sense of distance from the song’s subject while still maintaining a sliver of closeness.
Doe Paoro’s Slow to Love is a sturdy recording that makes great use of effects, vocals and modest arrangements. Flexible and poised, Paoro is a fearless and vibrant singer. She brings a unique thread to the table and is wholly accessible and poignant, “ghost” or not.