The British musician Yazmin Lacey, 35, sings in a mellow, textured voice, often just behind the beat. Her music interlaces jazz, soul, electronica and lovers rock — a style of reggae that nods to her Caribbean heritage (her mother’s from Antigua, her father from Bequia). Even as her arrangements gain layers and intensity, her voice remains calm, drawing the listener in. That sense of intimacy might explain, in part, Lacey’s devoted following in Europe. She’s been selling out dates for her first headlining tour, which began in Warsaw in November, in support of her debut LP, “Voice Notes.” (She plans to add U.S. dates in 2024.) The album guides listeners into close quarters ranging from a dance club (the glimmering “Late Night People”) to her own head: In “Bad Company,” an imaginary alter ego named Priscilla shows up at her apartment, smokes all her weed and declares herself to be the prettier of the two.
While growing up in East London, where her father was a postal worker and her mother a secretary, Lacey sang in the church choir, but it wasn’t until she was in her mid-20s, with the encouragement of some musician friends, that she started writing and performing songs. Before “Voice Notes,” she released a trio of EPs (the first of which, “Black Moon,” appeared in 2017) while working full time with a youth support program in Nottingham. But with this LP, she’s made music her sole career.
“Voice Notes” takes its title from the stream-of-consciousness audio messages Lacey leaves for her friends and the spontaneous melodies and ideas she records on her phone. Yet the metaphor belies how deliberately she crafted the album over the course of two years, working with the veteran producer and musician Dave Okumu, among others. The opening track, a spoken memo on creative blocks and flow, is a deliberately frenetic overture; by the end, the album has arced toward what she describes as the “mental calm” of her spacious, harp-based finale, “Sea Glass.” This fall, Lacey, who lives in London, was in the United States collaborating with songwriters and producers, exploring her next projects. “I don’t think we can ever underestimate, as Black women,” she says, what an achievement it is to “express yourself freely and stand firmly and boldly in the world.” — Emily Lordi