Musiq SoulChild - Feel the Real:
In today’s review, we’re going to school.
If you don’t equate R&B with Musiq SoulChild aka Taalib Johnson, we got a serious PROBLEM. He is to R&B as John Coltrane is to Jazz, The Beatles to rock, Michael Jackson to pop, you get me?
With a career spanning over a decade, Musiq SoulChild’s latest release, Feel the Real, is that real shit. When I say real shit, I mean: REAL R&B - you know, baby making, love serenading music. A blues-funk fusion infused with silky R&B phrases and slick vocal runs, Johnson takes us back to where R&B stemmed from.
/Heaven must have sent you to me to keep me far from hell, I am only human you know, for you so hard I fell/
It’s opening track, “Feel the Real (feat. Marsha Ambrosius)” is funky. Think Thundercat with more soul. His voice is smooth and incredibly expressive as he travels through scales and melodies, taking risks with his performance in every note. He glides into his falsetto only to rapidly come down in an impressive riff. His voice is consistent and strong. This song? Solid and chill.
Packaged in a 24 track double album, SoulChild explores the easily relatable: crushing, loving, breakups and reflection. To be completely honest, 24 tracks is ambitious. The concept is strong and for an artist with clout, understandable. However, this is too much of the same music. The album begins to drag on after the first half. By the time, I got to the second side, I was bored. Songs were not differential and you can only say so much about a break up or being in love before it becomes redundant. Sonically, this album is hardly electronic, straying away from the familiar, heavily produced electronic bass lines and drum production. He prefers the organic. With the exception of (out of place) trap influenced tracks, “My Bad” and “One More Time,” this album is full of Rhodes, electronic piano lines, wah-wah guitars and live drums.
There’s some good material, like “The Moon” which features scientist and all round woke person, Neil deGrasse Tyson. After deGrasse Tyson recites a poetic verse over a piano riff evoking a wandering curiosity, Music Soulchild comes in sweetly singing: /All the stars in the sky, could never shine as bright, as bright as my love for you/
His lyrics are pure and classic.
I don’t have to say that Music SoulChild is good or accomplished. His discography and influence within R&B reflects just that. Not to mention, he produced and composed this album with the help of only a few team members. He is beyond talented but the execution of this release was not great. I would’ve preferred one solid album as opposed to an overzealous attempt to do something big. Like we saw last week, less is always more.
Class dismissed. LANI
RIYL: The Roots, Robert Glasper, Jill Scott
Recommended Tracks: 1-1, 1-2, 1-4, 1-10, 2-5, 2-7, 2-9, 2-12
Pan Daijing - Lack:
Pan always brings the goods, and this release is no exception. Lack is unsettling. Not a single track on this release is something you can listen to passively; it commands your full attention. Every track is horror made sound. Every track is a terrifying dive into the unknown.
That is until the end. "Lucid Morto" is a shocking conclusion to Lack. Its the only track with any tonal or consistent rhythmic, and it makes for a stunning conclusion. When listened to from 1. to 10., everything feels open in ways you probably forgot about in the firsts nine tracks.
While Lack is a wild departure from their last record, Mono No Aware (Pan Daijing co-wrote the last track), anyone interested in getting something totally different out of an album should check this one out. CAMERON
RIYL: Non worldwide, Why Be, Bill Kouligas, Sound installations in modern art museums
Recommended Tracks: 1, 5, 10
Princess Nokia - 1992 Deluxe:
Aha yes! Rejoice folks, Princess Nokia’s highly anticipated LP, 1992 Deluxe, is finally here. In this expanded re-release of her 1992 EP from 2016, we are able to take an honest look into Destiny Frasqueri’s magical world. With plenty of bangers and eight fresh tracks including “G.O.A.T” and “Brick City,” Nokia presents us with an autobiography through her lyrics, describing her upbringing as an Afro-Nuyorican woman in NYC.
Destiny starts the tape with some of her more well known songs like “Tomboy,” “Kitana,” and “Brujas” to energize and arouse listeners with her daring lyrics and mystical beats. The vibe of the album gradually mellows out, and Princess Nokia stuns us with the song “Saggy Denim”, a true slam dunk track with a smooth bonus feature from fellow New Yorker rapper Wiki.
While Princess Nokia sounds genuine and raw, the production quality of the album itself could use a bit of work. With bars as powerful as hers, Nokia most definitely needs a producer with a little less ignorance and a little more clout. Despite this hiccup, you know I’ll be bumpin’ this album until the day I die. Much love to Princess Nokia, and remember to be on the look out for my Nokia costume this Halloween. Esketit! NATASHA
Recommended Tracks: 1-16
RIYL: Kari Faux, Kevin Abstract, Junglepussy, Earl Sweatshirt, Mike G
FCC: Explicit the whole way through
Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1978-1992:
Comps, comps, comps. Compilations are the bread and butter of any World Music Genre Director, aspiring or otherwise. You could call me the Compilation Queen if you wished. Comps are already curated, which means they are thematically and sonically coherent. And they also serve as a guide to music outside of one’s comfort zone (aka outside their culture).
But comps can be tricky too, because the tracks and the artists all blend together into the comp, never gaining any real particularity. But don’t despair! Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992 is a compilation that you may get lost in, and that’s a good thing. It is comprised of a mixture of now well-known and still obscure Brazilian artists: Andréa Daltro, Maria Rita, Fernando Falcão.
The sonic arrangements themselves are disorienting, as indigenous rhythms, traditional instruments and synthesizers congeal together. The textures on the synthesizers can be dreamy, warm, and deep on one song like O Sol Na Janela which complements Piry Reis’ silky voice. At another point the bright 808 cowbell steals the show through extreme syncopation in “Só Quero Um Xodó,” by Os Mulheres Negras.
This is an airy album - there is a lot of breathing room in these tracks for the listener, and despite its contemporary and pop influences, remains ambient and easy to digest. It also puts an interesting and often ignored period of Brazilian music into focus. Attempt to remember the eighties with fondness through this album: you’ll succeed. AUSTIN
RIYL: Mayra Andrade, Nidia Góngora, Maria Usbeck
Recommended Tracks: 1, 3, 5
Iron & Wine - Beast Epic:
Ok, first of all, the cover art?? I really dig it. I know embroidery is sort of tired at this point but I dunno, I feel this. The album itself is sort of the same way. Beast Epic isn’t anything I haven’t heard before; it isn’t some grand departure from the rest of Iron & Wine’s (a.k.a. Samuel Beam) discography, or even indie folk in general… But you know what? That’s ok.
The album does what it does and does it well. Beam’s vocals are as evocative and lovely as always, as is his signature jangly acoustic guitar. Songs like the single “Call It Dreaming” and “About A Bruise” feature upbeat rhythms and fun, catchy melodies. There are also, of course, some more low key tracks, like “The Truest Stars We Know,” which I appreciate because even if the lyrics are about orphans and Jesus, it never gets ~melancholy~ or nihilistic. That’s the great thing about Iron & Wine, he’s like Father John Misty but not emo.
The cohesion in this record is also really what is striking to me, even with more disjointed, wonky tracks like “Last Night” the songs are able bleed into each other in the best way, so it’s just one long warm and cozy sound bath.
Not to be a big ball of cheese, but it’s hard to listen to this album without smiling! Granted, some of the nature imagery can be a tad corny (see “Right For Sky”) but it's truly like putting on an old shoe. As I said, it is pretty similar to his previous albums, so it feels familiar, in an unpretentious, beautiful, and comforting way <3 VIRGINA
RIYL: FJM, The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes
Recommended Tracks: 1, 3, 10,11