Originally hailing from Morocco, Just Leila (aka singer/songwriter Leila ليلى Moussaoui) grew up with a diverse set of influences, including jazz, Arabic melodies, French pop, and the rhythm of R&B. An avid traveler, Leila’s wanderlust seems to have creeped into her latest offering, Just For Me, a seven-song EP full of meditative pop with a distinct, new age twist. Having spent so much time traversing the globe, Leila’s songs are informed by themes of connection, freedom, and artistic expression. About the album, Leila offers:

“‘Just For Me’ is like a creative mantra of sorts, something I needed for myself in order to protect my creativity and keep it sacredly mine until I was ready to share it out. I wanted to gift myself this safe space, this blank canvas, so I could really open up.”

EP opener, “Bits of Pieces,” sets the scene for Leila’s soothing and relaxing approach. Her silky-smooth vocals and effervescent, laid-back style are immediately put on full display, bolstered by little blasts of horn, blippy clips of percussion, and chants that read as life-affirming mantras. To my ear, there is a ’90s sophisiti-pop influence to these songs, reminiscent of “Missing” by Everything But the Girl or even a deep Sade cut. The song has a clear message of interconnectedness as evidenced by lyrics like: “Lot of little strings between us all, we pull and get pulled so far, swirling bits of pieces made of stars, we are, yes we are part of it all…” But I couldn’t help but be drawn to the playful way Leila sings “champagne flowing in my veins.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition between the serious message that “we are all one” and the playful, carefree approach that a bit of bubbly might inspire.

Songs like track three, “Don’t Be Alarmed” and track six, “Desert Song” take a darker, almost menacing tone. The former is a song about being imprisoned – whether metaphorical or not, the rumbling bass presence and Leila’s haunting vocal work certainly inspire dungeon-like imagery. The latter is clearly inspired by Leila’s desert-based upbringing – with Arabic-inspired percussion; otherworldly chants; and lyrics featuring themes of infatuation, love, and even lust; it has a hypnotic vibe that Leila roots herself in while she mesmerizes you with her presence.

While the jazzy, French-sung “Bébé?” and the artistic yearning of “ché pas” offer more faceted glimpses into Leila’s restless adventuring, it’s album closer “Just For Me” that truly brings this project home. With a spine comparable to “Desert Song” and the trance-inducing energy found throughout Just For Me, Leila’s Middle Eastern influence shines brightest here. Over a somnolent vocal chant, Leila reaffirms why Just For Me exists, and her sincerity and openness is truly refreshing – see below:

I really needed to tell myself
I don’t care how people are going to hear it, take it, whatever.
Just separate myself completely from it
Because it would fuck with my head
But then this is the one thing that is like
It can be just me
And I need that protection.

Just For Me is out on December 18th, 2023, coinciding with Leila’s birthday. You can find Just For Me via Soundcloud (below), or, via Leila’s Spotify page. If you’re looking for all the different ways to stream or support Leila, check out this helpful link here.