Get Lost In Jody Watley's 'Paradise'

Thursday, July 31, 2014

As a trendsetting chanteuse of all things funky and glamorous, Jody Watley's latest endeavor isn't all that abnormal. Sure she cannonballs into high octane electronica and brings cutting edge producers like Mark de Clive-Lowe and Soulpersona into the froth, but Paradise carries Madame Watley's repertoire with high regard. With all this disco revival stuff going on it's kind of silly to say that Watley is reviving anything. Least we forget she lived the era while being 1/3 of the 1970s funk-pop group, Shalamar, and kept all that fierceness attached when she embarked on her highly successful solo career in the 1980s. Watley has been there and done that, strutted that catwalk, 'whacked' that dancefloor, and been carefree in how she conveys her art, thus teaching the new breed of 'diva' babies is kind of her thing now. Still Watley ain't closing up shop yet, and Paradise is merely Watley sprinkling a little more sparkle on a blueprint she has already successful drafted and continues to redefine.

Shura Composes Sweet Heartbreak With 'Just Once'

When I heard the line: "If you get my name wrong I won’t get pissed off cause I wish I was somebody else", I thought, well damn, I have found a kindred self-depreciating spirit. The sweetly fragile "Just Once" is my first invitation to Shura and her penchant for aerial pop that sounds sweet, but hints at something a wee bit darker. Shura tussles in angst quite well, but she's got a solid melodic going on that grooves in the right places (thanks to a few poignant bass tickles) and harmonizes as if its floating on a distant cloud. A few months ago, Shura engaged with her first single, "Touch" from an as-yet-to-be-determined project, and while it was nice n' all, I prefer this one for its simplicity and its throwback to the poppish harmonies of the '90s (cue a nod to Donna Lewis' 1996 hit, "I Love You Always Forever"). With one listen I think you'll be able to make a little room for yet another Londoner who's doing dope things in the name of lush future soul.

Janelle Monáe Gets Her Greek On For 'Electric Lady'

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This is some Carefree Black Girl-ness that can't and will not be tamed!

I had little interest in sorority life while in undergrad, but Janelle Monáe is making me want to pledge Electro Phi Beta with the fierceness after witnessing the visual for upcoming single, "Electric Lady". Electric Lady, the album, has been out for almost a year (yep, it really has), and since day one I've been waiting for her to give shine to what has been my anthem over the last few months or so.

Well, today is that day, as Monáe has outdone herself (once again) as she makes merry with her fellow sorority sisters and throws a house party to end all house parties complete with an impromptu step show, marching band, and some recognizable guest stars popping up (I see you Esperanza Spalding, Kimbra, T-Boz, Monica, and Estelle, and yes, you too, impostor Erykah Badu). Even Monáe's mama makes an appearance to keep the sisterhood theme alight. So get way down and celebrate the joys of being an electric lady by indulging in this oh so fun visual.

Just two parting questions: Where is the song's guest star Solange and where can I get an Electro Phi Beta jacket?!?

Don't You Dare Cut Off Muhsinah's 'M'

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's been a long time since Muhsinah left us with a dope beat to step to, but in a lot of ways I really don't blame her for her absence. She's been a busy girl, touring and daydreaming and what not, but since I just write about the music I can get forgetful in the midst of sentence building about how much of a mental and physical undertaking it is to create musical art. Mushinah describes it best: “I have a theory that all artists need time off to live so that they have something to write about. We all need that time in order to grow, in order to fail, in order to completely make asses of ourselves." Amen to that.

Described as a 'sonic mood-ring', M took Muhsinah five days of isolation to complete, and as a noted DIY dame, the Virginia native created the entire project from scratch and out of her own home. Her last effort, 2011's Gone, slunk into mid-tempo melancholic, but M isn't as sprawling or as moody as these four tracks are hopped up on endorphins. It still achieves the accessible eclecticism the singer/songwriter is known for, yet M glows on vibrant rhythms and hook-laden choruses that note Muhsinah feigning off abstractness. From highlights like the therapeutic synthesized trap of "Okay", and the Middle-Eastern flourishes on the funky "Cut Off", M is a bouncy, yet maturing affair. Even the downbeat, "Under" feels like it will cheer up at any second. Time off, was time well spent for Muhsinah, and you can carve out some time of your own to pick up this batch of hotness over at her official spot. You can also stream the project after the cut if you want to test drive it before adding it to your collection.

Trouble Leads To Paradise For La Roux

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Setbacks lead to comebacks. Just ask La Roux. A lot of emphasis is being placed on the five-year absence of the UK duo, and it's with natural reason. In music consumer terms, five years without so much as a buzz single is of drought proportions considering La Roux left us after delivering a monsoon of synthesized amazingness on their debut album. Like a choosy, smooth operating lover you can't quit, La Roux played us for five years, dancing on promises that were relayed, and then in turn, delayed. Patience saw us through the whirlwind success of their 2009 self-titled debut, and it was its success that possibly made those five years afterward so grueling. 

Not only did touring take up a few years, but their breakout single, "In For The Kill" kept the band coasting well into the noughteens thanks to remixes by Skrillex, samples by The Game, covers by Kelis, and a pre-Kardahsianed Kanye West edging into the official remix to give the duo bushels of cred. Not to mention they had other singles ("I'm Not Your Toy" and their US best-seller, "Bulletproof") that garnered the same amount of attention, and to wrap it all up in bow, in 2011 they scooped up a Grammy as well. Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid threw a bulls-eye on the futuristic spin of all that was '80s synth as La Roux was a love letter to the New Wave era, crackling with pinball whizzing synths and the anticipating potential of bigger, bolder moves, but Jackson became kind of fussy when talks of La Roux's follow-up became dialogue. She noted that she didn't want to do synth music for the "rest of her fucking life". Heck, she had even stopped listening to '80s music. Oh, and yeah, about the synth genre, bad news guys and gals, it's dead, dead, D-E-A-D. 

Over-dramatic much, Elly? Eh, just getting warmed up. 

Take 5 Friday: 'Weird Al' Yankovic + Alex Isley + Kyan + Dorothy + Nikki Jean

Friday, July 18, 2014

Reheating leftovers of the week...

Because I'm Tacky!
Shocking news. We're all pretty dag gum tired of Pharrell's "Happy". Dag yo gumma gumma tired. Don't lie. You are flat-out spent on it like I am, but bless 'Werid Al' Yankovic for twisting hilarious parody and biting wit into his version of my most hated hit song of 2014. "Tacky" is simply a goldmine of amazing right down to its visual. Featuring a star-studded cast (Aisha Tyler! Margaret Cho! Jack Black! Eric Stonestreet! Kristen Schaal!), "Tacky" clicks through a list of unsavory attributes --- you know like sandals with socks, live-tweeting funerals, and those who type their resumes on Comic Sans. It's a celebration of all that is tasteless and fluorescently unashamed, and it (along with Schaal's "hands" tank-top --- where can I buy that?) has oddly made me 'happy' again. Throughout this week, Weird Al has dropped several videos from his Mandatory Fun project, parodying the likes of Lorde, Robin Thicke, and Iggy Azalea, but "Tacky" is by far my favorite of the bunch as I didn't know it would be everything I ever wanted in this life right now. [Watch

Run To The Sun
Speaking of Pharrell....this has been the week of obscure remakes, but Alex Isley just kind of scoffed at that and said: "You know what? I'll take TWO obscure songs and mash them into one franken-song?" Okay, okay. She probably didn't say that verbatim, but that's the conclusion I'm coming to via her latest offering. Never would I thought to have put 702's "I Still Love You" (from their underrated 2003 album, Star) and N.E.R.D.'s "Run To Sun" together, but since Pharrell penned both tracks, it makes a heap of sense. The end product is a glorious and inventive swirl as Ms. Isley puts these two songs on ice and lets them steam up together into a richly seducing slow jam. Satisfying. [Listen]

Belanger's Got Mariah Carey Feeling Emotions Again

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I pride myself on the cache of Mariah Carey remixes I have collected over the years. Whether they were bootlegs or crafted by some of the notable spin doctors at the time (Junior Vasquez for the win), I was snatching them up left and right. Most were culled from endless years of scrolling through fan forums and sites. Now mind you this was in the stone age before SoundCloud, Spotify, and all those other spiffy stream services that make remix sharing so simple now. We were using sluggish phones lines and roughing it through sharing sites like Kazaa (ahoy piracy!) back then. I will say I have slipped in these last few years of remix hoarding, but there is just something about a Mariah Carey remix that gets me all nostalgic and wanting to collect again. Well, NYC's Belanger has cooked up all the vintage-y feels for me once again on his re-work of Carey's big 1991 hit, "Emotions".

This refix was released about a week ago (so consider this a throwback to a throwback) but I've been playing it a lot lately while getting my fitness on, and it's perfect to break a sweat to as well as perfect to hear "Emotions" all decked out in a feverish house style. If you need a refresher, "Emotions" was Carey's feel-good summertime stunner that continued you her on a single winning streak, as it was at the time, her 5th #1 single in a row. It was somewhat criticized for sounding a wee bit like The Emotions 1977 smash, "Best Of My Love", then again, it always seemed intentional to me hence the song's title and all. Belanger has a knack for twisting a beloved classic into something fresh, so if you want to feel a new kind of emotion then by all means get caught up.

Kiesza Gets Deep

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My goodness

Steam is just rising off of Kiesza's latest "So Deep" and if you were looking for the backing soundtrack to all your summer flings and fantasies, well, this is that track. Yes, I'm a little late to dive into "So Deep" as its one of the fabulous four numbers on the Canadian vocalist's excellent Hideaway EP (out now), but no corner of time could have prepared me for all the sexy wexy that is coming out at me on this.

"So Deep" is in the same league as all the midnight sexual heals Maxwell scribed on 1996's Urban Hang Suite --- and if we want to get technical ---  this song escaped off of Janet Jackson's classic Velvet Rope album (direct attention to "Anything"), and forgot to tell Janet about it. Yes. This is some serious between-the-sheets soul with a smattering of kinetic house by song's close-out and Kiesza handles all of this gallantly. It's no secret that Kiesza has become one of my favorite new acts of 2014. She's just been so consistent and on-point that it's silly to not indulge in her crusade to bring the (and gosh, I hate typing this) the sexy back into R&B. Take to the sky with this natural high and scoop up the Hideaway EP so you can be like all the cool kids. 

Artist Watch: Ekkah

Monday, July 14, 2014

When you have a fairly common name you're bound to have someone in your friends' circle that possesses your namesake. Since I am the 156th Jennifer you'll ever meet in your life, I have in my short life had about a handful of Jennifers that have been pals. Due to that, and for the longest, I thought to form an all-girl band called: JENNIFER! (the exclamation point and the all caps are necessary). Still I don't think it'll be successful, because Jennifer's, eh, we're kind of bougie and self-absorbed. Someone is bound go all Diana Ross on everyone within first single drop. Who has been successful on the dual/multiple names front are The Donnas, The Veronicas, and the two Melanie's B & C from the Spice Girls, and now hoping to gain similar success is Ekkah, two Rebecca's (Rebekah Pennington and Rebecca Wilson) who hail from the UK and who have their keen ears latched to the future soul movement.

I'm quite impressed with their debut single "Figure It Out". It's got everything I like in it --- '80s synthesizers, Jessie Ware-esque vocals, and a bassline that bumps --- and it settles down the bones some as its perfectly lush. Its late summer afternoons, beaches, and all that easy-does-it stuff. The duo are prepping for an EP, and in the meantime are coasting on this song, and a few demos on their recently dropped (and aptly titled) Summer mixtape. There's also a really funky rework of Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots" on there as well, so yeah, they are worth a scope.

SZA & Jill Scott Find Divinity

Who would've thunk that  SZA and Jill Scott could come together to make a swirled soft serve of soul that bears repeated listens? Not that I underestimated these two fine ladies, no, its because when two worlds collide like this it brings the wide-eyes and awe, and well,"Divinity" does just that as the eyes widen and the mouth dropped, as these songbirds bring it like "whoa". Producer Om'Mas Keith managed to blend these two differences and make a sum that really rockets into the cosmos of all that bold, abstract, and melodic. It's not called "Divinity" for kicks, there is higher power here.

1992: Ah...Bas Noir

Thursday, July 10, 2014

House has come back in a big way these last two years or so. I know, because I feel I type and say that sentence a lot. Still it's true. Acts like Disclosure, Moko, and Kiesza have revived one of the 1990s biggest music movements and in turn they've either woven in UK Garage or just some good ol' R&B into the pulse and pounce of the genre's sleek repetitiveness, thus mutating the sound for a whole new generation. Not to yankee doodle all over the place, but the US has been in the house game a long time as well, and the red, white, and blue fruits of our labor blossomed all over the '90s that it's difficult to even name all the players involved. Bas Noir is an act that bloomed during this period but, unfortunately, got lost in the sauce of bigger acts, and when interest in house and club music waned in the middle of the decade, they ceased to exist. Cue the teardrops and the sad violins. Yet, in their brief moment in the sun, they issued out what to me is possibly one of the best house albums you'll ever hear.

JUCE Are Burning & Blazing Up

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"My city's burning up, burning up" --- and so goes the chorus of JUCE's newest and all I can say is
"oooh childe, yes!" I know the ladies are talking about their UK homestead's bumping nightlife, but it's the devil's scabby kneecap here in South Texas and this song couldn't be more apt. It's just unnecessarily H-O-T right now, and no air conditioning or church fan can stop this sting of heat that is just ripping through and kicking my ass. But I will endure the sun's mockery and the agony of boobsweat just to bounce around carefree to "Burning Up" which is yet another gemstone for this trio.

Not as strong as "Call You Out" or "(H)ours", and yeah, I'm a tad disappointed it's not a Madonna cover, but this one is just as savvy as the others and who doesn't like a little sonic Chic-esque flashback in their midst? Crank the temp up.

Artist Watch: Purple Ferdinand

First it is the name. What a great name. Purple Ferdinand. Then there is the backstory. A tattoo artist who hails from the UK and strums her ukulele to the songs she's writes all by her lonesome. Yes. I must listen. Then there is the EP entitled Dragonfly. It's hella brief with three songs all clocking in less than four minutes, but, hold on, wait a minute, it's three songs deep, as "Birds", "Speak True", and "Wasn't Taught To" are poetic little charmers that linger after they chime out. Just lovely they are and have Miss Purple Ferdinand sharing table space with Corinne Bailey Rae, Lianne La Havas, and all those other earthy big maned soul chicas of recent. Then we've got the visuals, all three songs get the treatment, and if there was a need for ukuleles to take starring role in a music video, then well sorry, everyone else, but Purple Ferdinand is cooler than us all and has brought the ukulele game to another level. Oh, and she's singing Little Dragon covers? New best friend material right there.

To repeat myself, sometimes you don't need much, just the little things to give you a fuller and more vivid picture and Purple Ferdinand is the sum of many intriguing parts, parts that will make you an instant fan and have you reaching for the repeat button. Trust. You can scoop up Dragonfly for free over at Purple Ferdinand's webspot, and also take a gander at the visuals after the cut for some supreme ukulele heroics.

KING Beautifully Criticize Mister Chameleon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Floating into the steam of summer, the lovely ladies of KING have got a brand new melody to covet and it is a beaut. Putting people on blast takes skill to do with tact. I'm one of those who gets loud and starts twitching and balling fists, but I need to take some cues from these ladies as they make the lushest diss song I've ever heard with "Mister Chameleon".  It just glides on a sound potpourri of swelling and twinkling synths as they call out a man's disloyalty and fair-weather ways, all while debating if they should say 'hasta la vista' or not. 

If this charming track sounds a wee bit familiar it's because KING did a live and lengthier version at the Volia! Gallery in Los Angeles a few weeks back, and it was just as wonderful as this spiffed up studio version. Nonetheless, both versions are sublime, and will both definitely find room on my summer soundtrack. Bask in the glow of "Mister Chameleon" after the cut.