The Deserters (RAF)
This Canadian soprano was set for a continuing role at London's Royal Opera House before an airport issue scuppered that dream and precipitated one of the more interesting pop-rock careers instead. Zeffira eventually returned to London and encountered indie rock, notably The Horrors' singer Faris Badwan, with whom she formed the acclaimed duo Cat's Eyes in 2011. Now their label, RAF (stands for Rachel and Faris), proudly hosts her debut solo album, which marries the singer's classical schooling and edgier new influences to splendid effect. These are pop songs, in essence, but distinguished by swathes of piano, oboe and strings, most of those instruments played by Zeffira, who restricts her vocals to an ethereal whisper throughout. The results are pleasingly reminiscent of the atmospheric 1980s trio Cocteau Twins, and there are frequent hints of Goldfrapp's early cinematic soundscapes, particularly on the lovely Letters from Tokyo (Sayonara) and Goodbye Divine. Members of The Horrors' contemporaries Toy and SCUM also help out with drums and guitar, but fans of those bands may be disappointed by the lack of noise: Zeffira's vision is serene and sublime.
* Si Hawkins