Light Of June
Who owned June? My vote goes to Jilly, Jill Scott that is, as she debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts for the first time in her career with her aptly titled fourth album, Light Of The Sun. Relaxing and verbose, Jill continues to own her element and our ear drums as she entices with the grooves of the summer soundtrack. If earlier singles, "Shame" and her Anthony Hamilton partnership, "So In Love" didn't move you, Light Of The Sun has plenty of other (better) sound tapestries to enjoy. Personally, things being to cook when the stunning, "Hear My Call" emerges. Tracks like "Making You Wait" and "Missing You" and even a surprising Paul Wall collaboration ("So Gone (What My Mind Says)") ooze out so fluidly and shows Scott sinking into her element. Still I'm divided as the album feels more controlled than her earlier efforts (has to be the due to that major label change) and at times I'm hearing a hearty dose of Erykah Badu influence that hits quite close to what Badu did on Return Of The Ankh last year (it may be just crazy ol' me). Nonetheless, the only downside to this record is that a pitcher of sweet ice tea and a wide fan aren't included with purchase so you can properly experience the Southern soul vibe of Sun.
Van Hunt's Funky Reincarnation
Christmas happened in June when two of my favorite male crooners, Rahsaan Patterson (more about Rah in July) and Van Hunt released their new singles---in the same week. Seems like those prayers mumbled have been answered as Van is set to release his long-anticipated fourth album, What Were You Hoping For? later this year (September 27th to be exact). Hopefully the pending album won't suffer the same uncertain fate as his vastly underrated and unreleased, Popular from 2008 did. "June" is the first "sneak peek" at what Van has been ruminating in his little shop of funkiness, and it's mid-waist in a eerie sparse groove that would make Sly Stone proud. [Download - June]
Discovering The Experiments of Florrie
On paper, Florrie is an 'over-achiever'---making all of us lazy bumpkins look bad. She's a model, a drummer (for Xenomania), a songwriter, and a singer. She has also clocked in overtime as she's working on her debut album. Her burning the midnight oil is fruitful as the goodies she has on her EP Experiments make the EP a six-track sensation---and one of the best short players you'll hear this year. With the jovial synth popcorn of, "Begging Me" and the bluesy, "What You're Doing This For", Experiments has her fall in good company with the likes of other Euro-Pop starlets like Annie and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The crowning moment is the explosion of "I Took A Little Something" which showers down synths giving it an 80's mall rat feel that would make Debbie Gibson's bowler hat dance.
Having A Crystalline Dream
If you're a fan of Bjork, and have been for some time, nothing should really surprise you about the sound adventures she takes you on. Biophilia is acting like the avant garde biology class I wish I had taken in undergrad as songs about lunar cycles, DNA, and tectonic plates will be expected. The first single dropped, "Crystalline", has gone on the critical chopping block. Either you love it's choppy creep along, or you hate it because it's not as far-out as most would expect a Bjork track to be. Personally, I think it's fashioned quite well, and worth it once get to the thundering finale. Still the track is one element to the album spread Bjork has in store. Being as innovative as always, special instruments were made specifically for certain tracks and Bjork experimented with various styles that resemble the resources described in the tracks (i.e. for lunar cycles, sounds will change with each new lunar "phase" etc.) Tech geeks will love that she recorded this album partially on an iPad and it will be one of the first (if not one of the first mainstream) "App Albums" in history. Yeah, it all sounds like product placement overkill, but the project is so 'Bjork-y' how can I resist it when it arrives this October?
I love peanut butter n' pickles type of collaborations, so taking a view at Erykah Badu situating her poncho and simmer in a groove with My Morning Jacket is definitely right up my alley. Their collaboration of choice? The eternal "Tyrone", a song that Badu unleashed in the late 90's (it's been that long?) that vocalized about a trifling bedbug of a man. When Badu popped up as a guest at MMJ's show, the band took the song back to it's bluesy roots with the additive of some rockin' n' reelin' guitar rock. It's really a superb match-up that possibly should open the door for future collaborations. Dig on that guitar solo.
Make A Scene Finally Makes A Damn Scene
Sometimes you do have to shake a damn tailfeather and Make A Scene is an album specially made for that kind of thing. After a lengthy delay, Miss Sophie Ellis-Bextor releases the fiercest dance album of 2011 and the most cohesive album in her now ten-year career. The BPM aren't as hopped up on ecstacy as Kelis' Fleshtone from last year nor will be as lauded as Lady GaGa's Born This Way, but Make A Scene delivers the smart pop tarts alternative that makes Miss SEB stand out and above some of her contemporaries. Collaborations with Freemasons ("Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)" and the electrical charged "Bittersweet") melt into the array of pop trappings that take a timewarp every now again as 90's House elements mix with the eeriest of 80's New Wave ideas for a complete package. The sublime "Starlight" is still tops for me, but her rendering a long-lost Roisin Murphy track, "Off & On", the spirited, "Not Giving Up On Love, "Revolution" and all of it's catch n' release groove, aren't far off the mark as well.
No, I'm not imitating Joey Lawrence from Blossom, more like I'm getting in the mindset to experience Nikka Costa's EP, PRO*WHOA!, which is like...whoa. As much as Costa keeps the comedy afloat on her YouTube page she does the same in the music she puts out like "Nylons In A Rip" which show off the singer's spunk and wit. PRO*WHOA! is Costa staying to true to what she does best (we'll forget scrub out of mind "Ching, Ching, Ching") and that is just being an intergalactic procreation of Janis Joplin and Prince. Lots of greasy guitar work and music to 'whip your hair back n' forth' to is to be experienced with this, and you'll be hard pressed to find a funkier little EP this year. Be sure to push repeat on the title track and the psychedelic revival of "Head First".
Patrick Stump Builds His 'City' On Some Funky Things
I'll admit. I'm highly interested at what Patrick Stump is going to serve up on his upcoming solo debut, Soul Punk. The former Fall Out Boy member is going all one-man-band with the effort as he's playing the instruments, producing it, making the sandwiches---erm---he's doing everything on the record and that shows dedication to the music craft. Sure it's a little show-offy, but Stump is capable of changing people's minds about his talent, which I always thought was bigger than what Fall Out Boy could handle. Evidence of that is on his Truant Wave EP, which is designed as an exercise in sleek 80's R&B/Pop-Funk that won't quit. Soul Punk (which hits stores this October) is catching attention due to the first single, "This City" which was quietly released this month with fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco throwing out a verse for a extra-special touch. It's no "Hometown Glory" but it's still a little bit just to wet the whistle till this 'punk' goes soul on us.
You know I try to like Beyonce because well, I fit the criteria. Female. Of the sepia persuasion. Texas native. Destiny's Child fan. In my 20's. Mindless Pop Music Lover. Check and double check. I should be worshiping at the alter of Bey---but I don't. She just rests in a comfortable pool of mediocrity to my taste. To not feed the stans further, let's accentuate the posistive, and her latest, 4, has a few upsides that would make a not-so-casual listener like myself find some tracks for the yee ol' playlist. Like with Destiny's Child (the threesome years), the best songs are ignored for the overrated muck of the released singles. Songs like "I Miss You" and "End Of Time" sparkle all on their own, and should be considered for single choices. Then there is "Love On Top" which is clearly the best song on the whole damn album for me. It's delightfully soaked in a inviting New Jack/Late 80's early 90's sheen making it the most convincing Bey has sounded to my ears since she first started her solo career.
Watching Maxwell on VH1's Storytellers made me hungry for two things: 1) to see Maxwell live in concert again and 2) for VH1 to continue to do shows like Storytellers because yeah, they are a music channel after all. While VH1 revels in the asinine mind drains known as reality TV it was kind of like seeing a unicorn flying across the sky when Maxwell took center stage for his own Storytellers special. He of course charmed and brought the sexy during the whole performance. I particularly loved how he dusted off "Drown Deep (Hula)" from 1998's Embrya---that's a song and an album that doesn't get mentioned too often.
Picking Up The Pieces
Ever read a book where the author has all the ebb and flow of lyricism in their prose, but the plot and character development just fell flat? This is the case for Ledisi's Pieces Of Me, sad to say. I'm still a die-hard Led-Head, but Pieces just didn't cut it for me. Yes, not every album can be Turn Me Loose (which was my #1 album for 2009), songs like "Shut Up", "BGTY" and the tender "I Miss You Now" were what I would save from the bushel, but the rest is like plastic fruit. It's pretty to admire, but you can't sink your teeth into it. Ledisi is singing so wonderfully (as always) and the album is harmless enough, but it's just an overall tepid collection that sounds more like a wandering debut album than a fifth release.