First Impressions: Jose James and Nneka Thaw Out The Winter Slump

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Honesty is the best policy: Corinne Bailey Rae and Sade's releases were nice and received good ratings from me, but (and there is a big one wiggling in your face) you have to be in a "place" to listen to them in full and that place is quite dark. The timing was perfect for the two albums to be released, in the dead of winter when you're feeling the most defensive. The weather is playing cruel tricks and you're feeling the other kind of funk. The funk that makes you want to hide under the covers and not come out till that first sign of Spring pops up. To defrost, I'm tipping the beret to artists Jose James and Nneka for getting me out of my bluflunkies with their prospective new albums that sizzle and steamed away the frost that formed when the Solider and Sea came in.   

Jose James - BlackMagic
Jose James is new to me, though he's been draping his jazzy ways around the music parts for the better half of the 2000's with his 2008 debut, The Dreamer. After some convincing from the music blogs I browse, I decided to take a gander and see what all the hoopla was about, and the hype is no pull of the leg, it is massively welcomed. James' second outing, BlackMagic was released early this year, and its one of 2010's best offerings due to it's sultry, experimental and original soundscape. The first single, the infallible, "Code" is catchy and persistently keeps you on your toes with it's wit and rhythm. Other tracks like the horn peppered, "Lay You Down" and the echoing keys n' percussion drenched of "Warrior" note an expansion of classic Jazz concepts with hip-hop, soul, trip-hop and a bit of fusion funk mixed in. As someone who likes their music with some additives, this appeals to me as you'll hear something new each time you listen. James also has an impressive vocal tapestry that blankets this album with the utmost smoothness, and who can argue with that? Superb.


Nneka - Concrete Jungle
There have been many critics who have drawn the comparison of Nigerian born Nneka to Lauryn Hill, and well, I can't blame them. Hill has been popping up in the oddest of places as of late, with no album in sight and we all know that we're probably never going to get an album like 1998's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. So Nneka has an advantage. Still Nneka's first introduction to the US comes in the form of Concrete Jungle, which is EVERYTHING. Listen to me, if there is one album that you don't need to skip on this year, it's this one. A blend of hip-hop, Reggae, Afro-beats, soul and folk is what your ears will come acquainted to and all at varying degrees. The first single, "The Uncomfortable Truth" brought me in, but the massive Santigold-ish "Heartbeat", powerful "Suffri" and the affectionate, "Mind vs. Heart" , made me stay. Still not convinced? Check out two bites from the album and then get justified to Nneka's offering.


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