On the latest Winona Wilde album, Toronto artist Noosa Al-Sarraj says she’s “as real as [she] can possibly be, and the songwriting is infinitely more vulnerable.” It doesn’t take very long to see that on Wasted Time, an album that bluntly confronts loss, injustice and some of the darkest ways a person can hurt another.
Troubadour by sound and lifestyle, Al-Sarraj is a lifelong performer that’s really finding her stride with her new songs, from the heartbreaking opener “Pincushion Soldier,” to the political “Chick Singer.” Al-Sarraj isn’t shying away from anything on her tracks, making for a raw listening experience—one that hits you right in the gut as Al-Sarraj’s voice beautifully, and sometimes playfully, stuns you into listening closely to the dark, devastating and, often, defiant lyrics.
The loss in “Pincushion Soldier,” as Al-Sarraj’s gently sings, “I was twice an infant’s mother/When we buried our Mary/ I thought we’d never have another” sets the tone for the album, immediately showing the newfound vulnerability that Al-Sarraj has taken on.
The storytelling convention of country is one Al-Sarraj commands on this album, turning the standard around on the powerful and harrowing “The Night That Joel Got Shot.”
“But you’ve got to work twice as hard/And be twice as good/And get paid half as much/As you know you should,” she sings on “Chick Singer,” weaving in the broader political implications of the album’s wrenching lyrics.
“Buy a Round” marks a change in the album, as Al-Sarraj laughs into a pure country number that fittingly rolls in and around itself. There’s more of a folk sound to “Black Forest Black Forest” before “To The Corner” finds a balance between the two to quietly see out the album.
Poignant and pointed, Wasted Time is an album that demands that you listen. Cut almost entirely in a single 10-hour session, Al-Sarraj knows what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. Despite the title, she’s clearly not wasting any time.
Top Track: “Pincushion Soldier”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)