Take 5 Friday: Andy Allo + Mayer Hawthorne + Ekkah + Kwaye + Shura

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reheating leftovers of the week....

Feeling Tongue Tied
Though she's a featured guest on Prince's latest set, Art Official Age (which I still haven't taken for a spin yet...), Andy Allo is back to her solo tricks again for an upcoming soon-to-be-titled EP. She quietly dropped the first impression, "Tongue Tied", a fizzy guitar-pop number that is truly a stark departure from the funky stuff she unleashed on her last effort, 2012's Superconductor. Allo truly backs away from her Prince principles on this one, but it's spacious and sunny, and I can just bet that you'll be humming it for the rest of the weekend because it is that catchy. Don't say I didn't warn you... [Listen]

Staying Put
Why hasn't Mayer Hawthorne thought of doing a covers album yet? He's so good at them. He's especially good at taking songs that people have probably heard a billion times and he makes it seem like it came fresh off the wax yesterday. He did it with Lorde, and now he's doing it with Rihanna. Like I said before, I usually like Rihanna when she's throwing shade on social media or when she struts down the red carpet in fierce attire, but her "music" leaves a lot to be desired, hence why it was super easy for me to enjoy Hawthorne's take of "Stay" so much. He fills in the vocal blanks, fluffs it up with some plush '60s soul, and completely makes it his own. [Listen

Brandy, MC Lyte, YoYo & Queen Latifah Get Down Like It's 1994

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some kind of old school sisterhood cropped up at the 2014 BET Hip-Hop Awards last night when Brandy took the stage to perform the remixed version of her 1994 classic, "I Wanna Be Down", and what do you know, it was absolutely positively G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S. From a stark white background Brandy emerged hooped and 'fro-ed up, but she didn't strut out there alone as she brought along her friends, MC Lyte, YoYo, and Queen Latifah to feed the femme fires, and the three of them just stormed the stage with peerless flows in tow, not missing a beat and schooling all the young thangs on how the sisterhood does Hip-Hop.

Flawless ageless goddesses. Every last one of them.

All and all, seeing this just made me:
a) nostalgic for the year that I was eight and joined the Brandy Fan Club via snail mail
b) confirm why Brandy and Queen Latifah's TV characters of Moesha and Khadijah will remain my writing she-ros
c) want to kick up my skin care and beauty regime because MC Lyte, YoYo, and Queen are just killing it in their 40s
d) shake my head over how badly hip-hop and women empowerment in it has gotten for women (sorry Nicki Minaj doesn't cut it for me...)
e) want to spin "I Wanna Be Down" (aka the greatest Brandy song ever) in a loop for the rest of the week

Check for the classic visual after the cut, and let it fully marinate that that music video is 20 years old and it looks like it was recorded yesterday.

Bite Into Marina & The Diamonds' 'Froot'

Friday, October 10, 2014

When I celebrated my birthday last month, I just got a Dr. Pepper cake (and it was delicious), but when Marina & The Diamonds (aka Marina Diamandis; aka the best friend in my head) celebrates a birthday, she releases a brand new song. Apples and oranges, yes, but Marina is cooler than I am, so there you go.

Speaking of apples and oranges, Marina's latest song is called "Froot", a disco-dizzy affair that recalls the hypnotic lure of '70s Donna Summer, and the chug-a-lug electronica know-how of Little Boots, to create one juicy nocturnal stomper. Co-produced by David Kosten and ripe with flirty word play, "Froot" is the first inkling of Marina's upcoming new album that is slated to make an appearance next year. She's already off to a great start as "Froot" is wildly good, but it's going to be hard to top the brilliance that was 2012's Electra Heart so there is that.  

Funny. I was listening to The Family Jewels just yesterday, and was reminded of how grand "I Am Not A Robot" is, and why everywhere I go, "Shampain" needs to played in the background at high volumes. Just a side note, carry on...

Artist Watch: Shanaz Dorsett

Storytelling in music is something that warms my little bibliophile heart. Some of my most favored songs have characters, settings, and narratives that just leap from the melodies to where they play like short stories, taking me, the listener, into a embellished reality. Singer/songwriter Shanaz Dorsett had me at her OkayPlayer interview where she dished about herself (loved her response to how old she was), and what sparked the inspiration behind Mother Tongue, her debut EP. Dorsett, a South London native, details that Mother Tongue is her exploring and questioning the inner workings of family, class, and gender, all while she revels in soulful and boom-bap fancy, it aglow with her velvety coos.

When I covered Dorsett over at SoulBounce, I was charmed at how Dorsett crafts Mother Tongue as a sort of musical novella on coming-of-age. Whether she's dishing about first love ("AirMax 90") or is trying to understand the parental dynamic ("Daughter Karma") all while coming into her own personal brand of womanhood ("Big People's Business"), she's weaving these tales not just to tell, but to find the answers within herself in order to evolve. That's pretty 'literary-esque' if you ask me.

Her current single, "Four Walls & A Garden" is a cheeky little tune that details domestic bliss, but if you peel off the flowered wallpaper you will discover how frayed and soiled it is underneath. Its vivid music video is well worth the view as Dorsett comes off as a flirty Jill Scott or Emily King, showcasing her knack for planting her tongue to her cheek as she looks at the distorted world around her. While Mother Tongue is righting all kinds of weekly wrongs at current, consider me excited for more of Shanaz Dorsett's visual color splashes and narrative driven tunes.

Kylie Minogue Gets The Gaze Right On Kim Carnes' 'Bette Davis Eyes'

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Not that there wasn't any doubt, but somehow learning that Kylie Minogue covering Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" just didn't scream off the page at me. Yet, to dive into it, it was hard for me not to get lost in the crystal blue persuasion that is Minogue, as she rearranges the 1981 hit and casts a bewitching fizzy pop spell over it. Though Minogue's coos never reach towards Carnes' haunting rasp, she does her Minogue-y thang, and ends up dragging you onto the neon-lit dancefloor anyway, and well, I like it --- a lot. Also Idolator is right, as this re-imagining does feel like it could have snuggled up close to "On A Night Like This" via Light Years.

Now don't get excited all you Kiss Me Once loathers, as this isn't Minogue attempting to right its wrong (and really Kiss Me Once is not that bad...), but rather Minogue recorded this special cover for BBC's Radio 2, Sounds Of The '80s series, and it's a refix to gaze longingly into, losing all track of time. Yes, she will tease you...

AlunaGeorge Are Feeling A Bit Supernatural

Monday, October 6, 2014

With immediacy "Supernatural" is better than about 45% of what was on Body Music, AlunaGeorge's runway success of an introduction last year. Yep. Growth is definitely present as the London duo have concocted a track that is taunt and sleek, and takes some steps away from the their signature crunchy n' busy '90s R&B sound as they glide into a quiet, yet bubbly gurgle of '80s tinged futuristic-soul. Lead singer Aluna Francis has even tapered down her usual shrill coo, while Daft Punk-esque vocoder is sprinkled here and there nicely. Time spent with Disclosure seems well spent, I assume.

"Supernatural" is for now just a test run, a tease, for the album that the duo are currently working on, and well, based on this goodness, we're going to have a lot to look forward too.

Audio Diva Turns Six!

Six years ago I started Audio Diva.



Six. Years.

Well, alright, alright, alright....

Though contrary to my lack of posting these last couple of weeks (been super busy, yo), Audio Diva is still functioning. I'll admit, I don't know how long I'm going to keep the blog up considering how I'm itching to do freelancing full-time and I kind of want to stop hiding behind my musical nom de plume in the coming year ---things are just really up in the air at the moment.

What I do know is that over these six years of blogging about music past and present, I've seen myself grow as a writer with this blog, and I will proudly admit I have gotten better within those years. Take a look my posts from the first few years (actually don't because you'll turn to stone). Whoo. Terrible no good very B-A-D writing. But at the time, I believed in myself, believed in the music I liked, and believed in what I was writing --- and I still do. All the same things that motivated me to begin this blog six years ago still continue to motivate me even when I'm stumped for ideas, have lack of passion for it, or start to feel the creak in my bones over the changing face of music (I still don't get the fuss over most of the stuff on the Billboard Top 100...).

I've pushed myself to write better and give you guys, the Audio Divas and Dudes, better written content that feels more intimate and friendly, and less pretentious and less 'here's a song, and here's the audio, ad space, ad space, ad space'. This blog is an adventure, it's an adventure of music, of it's evolution, of my love for it, and it's an adventure of myself as I learn to be a better and honest writer and observer. It always has been. Looking back, I'm just super glad right now that I was able to create it and continue on it even when self-doubt and life's obstacles cackled in my face. And for SIX years! Some TV series and celebrity marriages don't even last that long....

I don't know who out there reads this quiet storm of a blog, but I thank all of you who read, send me e-mails, reach out to me through social media, and who are kind enough to leave comments. I know some of y'all, and I love ya and appreciate ya, and forgive me for being sappy and cliché, but I thank you all for being loyal, friendly, and just flat-out awesome. You don't know how much a little line of words from you gets and keeps me going, as it allows me to know that I'm on the right track. I even like the constructive criticisms every now and then as they help me to see things differently and to grow within my words.

While Audio Diva's future is a little uncertain right now, I'm reveling in pride for something I started as a hobby that has developed into so much more and has been not just a shared musical journey, but a personal one as well. So as I blow out the candles, I hope you continue to read and enjoy, as well as keep the music playing!

All Of Betty Who, For All Of You

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Betty Who's 2013 collaboration with her producer BFF Peter Thomas, "All Of You" is making the rounds now, and though from the looks of the tracklisting, the fizzy pop number will not be encased in the glossy flossy of Miss Who's upcoming debut album, Take Me Where You Go (out October 7th). But you can still throw some glitter in the air for it, I mean, it's somewhat new Betty Who after all...what's not to like?

The summer kissed "All Of You" is an urgent banger flourished with wave crashing synths that amp up Who's vigorous vocal, rather than drowns it out. It fits right into the '80s synth pop trap that she has keenly set herself up in, sounding like a more relaxed second cousin to Who's massive, "Heartbreak Dream".

Also, 19 days ago (according to my SoundCloud stream...) I was either too wrapped up in my daydreams or binge watching Netflix again, as Betty Who dropped "Runaways", one of her newbie tracks from Take Me Where You Go. It's not as interesting as the numbers found on Slow Dancing or last year's The Movement (I'm sorry but nothing beats "Lovin' Start" or "High Society") no matter its La Roux-y exterior, but I repeat, it's Betty Who newness, and there is always something to like about it.

Photo Source: Billboard

Take 5 Friday: Billie Black + Theophilus London + Daryn Alexus + Dornik + Katie Rush

Friday, September 5, 2014

Reheating leftovers of the week...

Simple Pleasure 
Awhile back, London native, Billie Black made a splash with a really delectable single that I never got around to shouting some words about. So here I am today rectifying that by turning my undivided attention to her latest release, "This Simple Pleasure" which joins her with Mura Masa for some good ol' funked up House that feels '90s, but truly has got the Millennial seed in there. Actually the song is better than just 'good', its infectious with razor sharp precision on rhythms, and it just packs some life-giving heat. Billie Black may only be 19, but she's got the tone of a seasoned lounged-out songstress, and that's a true rarity these days. [Listen]

Feel The Vibes!
Theophilus London is one of the few working rappers today that hasn't gotten on my nerves in some shape or form. I guess one of these days he'll ruin that for me by spewing something awful on Twitter, the PC brigade will get after him, and then he'll issue a non-apology, to where I can't listen to "Why Even Try" or his I Want You mixtape anymore because it just hurts too much. Well, here I go putting cart before horse again, since that hasn't happened at all (London seems like a nice chap) thus I can freely dive into "Tribe", London's latest from his upcoming VIBES! project (out later this Fall). Pulsating on meaty percussion, "Tribe" is a heavy-duty sweat slinging trance that is briskly fresh, and all-around fun as London's fireball rhymes just spit out all kinds of fierce. London's BFF, Jesse Boykins III joins him on the harmonizing front to smooth out a lot of the edge that is here. [Listen]

1979: Looking Backwards & Forwards At Kate Bush's 'Tour Of Life'

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In 1979, hot on the heels of a rocket climb to notoriety, Kate Bush embarked on the Tour Of Life, her debut stage spectacle that blended theater, pantomime, interpretative dance, cinematic storytelling, with glam rock flourish. A runway success, the tour was Kate Bush's enigmatic persona exploding all over the place, as she morphed into a ruthless killer, made herself into a human kite, and even rolled around in a egg-shaped womb on stage because well, feminism! Even though the tour carried Bush into a new phase of success and artistic integrity, the sum of its eclectic parts physically and mentally drained her to where she never toured again.

Well, that was until this year...

Last week, Bush kicked off her first tour in over 35 years, and it took a lot of 'sure yeah rights' before people collectively spazzed out over its validity. Lots of positive reviews I've read so far about the Before The Dawn show, most gushing about how La Bush has returned to fine form, and is still exhibiting all those theatrical pantomimes and enchanted forest sorceress accouterments she's known for --- and doing it all while barefoot thankyouverymuch. Of course there's some commentary on age and weight because, shock of shocks, 56-year-old mothers aren't supposed to be throwing edgy concert shows after 35 years of stage absence (*eye-roll*), but I'm more focused on the surprising aspect of the show's fresh set-list, as Bush pretty much acts like her first four albums and 1989's The Sensual World never existed (boo!), but does ALL of the conceptual insanity that is the Hounds Of Love's 'The Ninth Wave' segment (bad ass!). All in all, from what I've gathered, the whole damn thing sounds delightful and like the musical adventure Kate Bush fans have been craving three decades for.

Rock With Rachel Foxx

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I was thinking we hit a zenith point to the '90s nostalgia when the unauthorized travesty that was the Saved By The Bell movie premiered on Lifetime over the Labor Day weekend, but since the flick felt like secondhand embarrassment for all those involved, and didn't cover the glorious fever dream that was Zack Attack (still sore about that...) as well as there not being a scrunchie or a teased bang in sight, we still have a ways to go before we begin to back away from the '90s as source for our present culture. Actually I'm quite here for a lot of the '90s throwbacking that's going on, and maybe that's because it was the era of my upbringing, and let go of it I can't.

Newcomer Rachel Foxx's self-titled debut EP is getting some buzz because it harbors that distinctive '90s sound that is all the rage right now as it coasts on Aaliyah-y themes, but Rochelle Jordan she's not, as Foxx's low-key and jazz-minded sound really reminds me of Zhane's great Saturday Night album, with the rich tones of Goapele and Adriana Evans sneaking through. Foxx, yet another stunner from London town, has her brief EP crafted six tracks deep, as she turns down the lights and takes you into such nocturnal moves like the piano laced "Before You", and the seducing opener. Personal favorite, "Rock With Me" is about as "up-tempo" as you'll get on this set, as it bounces or rather glides into a laid-back vibe that Alicia Keys captured on her first two albums (nods to "Troubles" and "Diary").

Distancing itself wonderfully from the synthesized future soul that is being churned at a conveyor belt pace at current, Rachel Foxx has the keen sense to show us the other side of '90s R&B, the side that had a bit more yearn in it and a bunch more blue lights turned on in its basement. Keep this one spinning well into next year.

Van Hunt Offers Up A 'Handful' Of What's To Come

It's not everyday that you hear about new Van Hunt material, but whenever the eclectic troubadour does arrive back into conscious he always has some special way of announcing his return. Taking a cue from Lalah Hathaway, Van Hunt has upstarted his own PledgeMusic campaign that will not only aid in the creation for his upcoming project, but also will unlock for donators autographed memorabilia, artwork, and special behind-the-scenes stuff exclusively assembled to allow fans to get knee-deep into his creative psyche. If it all sounds a bit gimmicky Van Hunt teases that his upcoming project will be worth the while as it will "chronicle love, loss and nostalgia delivered through the sounds of original funk and old soul". He also makes sure to name-drop such sound inspirations as The Delfonics, Paraliment-Funkadelic, Billie Holiday, and Pink Floyd, as well as the namesakes of fashion luminaries Givenchy and Halston, to pique interest further. Well, he already had me at Holiday and Halston, so everything else is just icing.

Hunt hasn't been terribly dormant since the wild wilderness that was 2011's What Were You Hoping For?, as earlier this year he duetted with Mara Hruby for The Decoders' Minnie Riperton project, and recently made an appearance at this year's AfroPunk festival alongside such contemporaries as Alice Smith, Lianne La Havas, and Zoe Kravitz's band, Lolawolf. For the festival's annual sampler, Hunt offered this new quasi-instrumental, "Handful Of Vapor", which is a little taste test of what he's dabbling into for this new project and it freely zips along awash with Hunt's signature guitar craftwork. As a long-time fan of Hunt's, there's no telling what he has in store for his latest, but as always, consider my anticipation ignited.

Kimbra Shape-Shifts The Art Of Self On 'The Golden Echo'

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Most play coy on their debut albums for the sake of sales and to leave favorable first impressions, but Kimbra isn't like most people. 'Simplicity' and 'expectancy' aren't words in her lexicon, proven multiple times over amid the expansive experimental compositions found on 2011's Vows. In fact, the only accessible thing about the New Zealander's debut was its introductory single, "Settle Down", and even then, she sounded like an extraterrestrial Amy Winehouse, scatting and scattering onamonapia vocal flavors about. Vows as a whole seemed like something from another galaxy, and try as might, remodeling it for US audiences the following year with more "accessible" additions still poised Kimbra as the exception to the rule of what is the current crop of receptacle-ready pop.

For The Golden Echo, Kimbra builds the same unorthodox foundation as she did once before with Vows, but round two has has her assembling new distinctive boards, slapping on even vivider colors, and creating a whole new kind of frenzied and exhilarating architecture that is almost uninhabitable, but is still quite the ostentatious showpiece that commands you to open your mind --- and open it real wide.

Karen Harding Is Really Saying Something

Monday, August 25, 2014

When Whitney Houston passed away a couple of years ago (...it's really been two years? Dang.) I have sort of rolled my eyes over some basic folks claiming they were the next big "Whitney voice". I mean, bless their widdle little hearts for even attempting to align themselves with Her Vocal Highness, ya know? So when I read that Karen Harding, a former X Factor contestant and YouTube enthusiast from Newcastle, stated she wanted to bring a big voice a la Houston back to house music again, I was skeptical, but intrigued.

Well, there are no groans or side-eyes from me as Harding's debut single, "Say Something" truly walks its talk. Co-written and produced by the mega talented, MNEK, "Say Something" is entrenched in potent deep house beats, but its main attraction is Harding's electric shock vocals, which are pretty damn supreme, and yes oh yes, you can hear snippets of Nippy-esque charisma during the breakdowns. The song is just refreshingly great as it sits down next to other B-I-G house tunes like Kiesza's "Hideaway" and Jess Glynne's "Right Here", evoking a lot of that big D-I-V-A sound from the early '90s. To be released on Method Records (home of other biggie house revival act, Disclosure) this October 19th, Karen Harding can rest assured that her gall to compare herself to the grand dames is warranted.