A new Jessie Ware album is always a reason to celebrate. Her vocal purity, mature approach to pop songcraft, and soulful arrangements reward close and repeated listens. However, expectations were high for the acclaimed UK songstress’s third LP, and Glasshouse smartly avoids one-upping Devotion (2012) and Tough Love (2014) and instead provides a fascinating window into the ecstasy and thrill of being an artist, mother, and wife all at once.
First single and opening track “Midnight” starts out as a sensuous, bedroom ballad with bewitching synthesizers before evolving into a smooth, retro jam with echoes of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” heavily steeped in its grooves. “Thinking About You” is a knockout ballad that, like “Wildest Moments,” could knock listeners off their feet in a live setting. With its classic jazz shadings and rich harmonies, “Stay Awake, Wait for Me” has the power to dim lights and ignite candles on their own accord. The tropical pop of “Your Domino” recalls ‘90s Swedish group Ace of Base while Jessie asks her man to “blow me a kiss, give me a look so powerful.”
Beginning with an elegant piano and gospel-fueled harmonies, “Alone” perfectly captures the spiritual transcendence she evoked subtly on Devotion. “Selfish Love” is another show-stopping hit. Co-written by Sarah Aarons and Kid Harpoon, the haunting Latin-infused groove depicts a fragmented relationship between two lovers without fully revealing why they are at odds. “Baby, let’s be honest about this / there’s only room for one in your heart,” she sings. “So tell me darling, why are we like this? / I must admit that I kind of like it.” The lovely trio of “First Time,” “Hearts,” and “Slow Me Down” convey a vulnerability and intimacy that’s largely absent from Top 40 radio today.
Following the heartache of “Slow Me Down” is the soaring power ballad “Finish What We Started” with a heart-swelling chorus that’ll get an entire arena singing along and waving their smartphones in the air. A sensitive Ware, accompanied by folk-pop guitarist Ed Sheeran and trumpeter Nico Segal, sings about marrying her childhood sweetheart and her hopes of being a fit mother to her one-year-old daughter on album closer “Sam.” Given the context of Ware’s relationship (or lack thereof) with her own biological father, every word carries profound depth and resonance.
Totaling 12 tracks—17 featured on the album's deluxe edition—Glasshouse represents a transitional moment in Jessie Ware’s life and career. Her phenomenal vocal ability and self-exploration of love and motherhood results in some of the most emotionally honest and artistically powerful songs she’s ever recorded. Her slight overabundance in balladry may be the only point of constructive criticism one could levy. But minor quibbles aside, Glasshouse is a triumphant return to music that will likely send fans into ecstasy, critics into raptures, and her competitors back to the drawing board.
Notable Tracks: “Alone” | “Midnight” | “Sam” | “Stay Awake, Wait for Me” | “Your Domino”