First Impressions: Meshell Ndegeocello's Weather Forecast
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
If there is anyone who knows how to make sensual and intricate love to music---it's Meshell Ndegeocello. With her husky alto that ribbons it's way skillfully around vivid proclamations, Meshell in her 20+ year career has had albums that have always tended to touch on the inner desires and intensities of human nature. She's been brutally honest about it all, whether dealing with the yearning monster within in herself or the intense passions she has in the throws of a relationship, Meshell never succumbed to cheapening her word play or catering to the 'what is now' club. Stylistically so, in a decade's time she has altered her sound with stark detours as the jazz-fusion-funk of her Plantation Lullabies and Peace Beyond Passion days from the early 90's are nestled in the back roads.
With Weather, her now 10th release, she continues to strike a chord, strike a shiver really, as Meshell has often had some sort of mystic ability with her music to make you feel urges that you thought you suppressed in public. Whatever the urge, feeling, or healing you get, there is always something provocative and original about how Meshell Ndegeocello lays out a record---and Weather is another attractive example of that craft.
Many critics have dubbed Weather the most folk-ish psychedelic space-out she's done. To some extent it is, atmospheric in every since of the word. Weather might feel quiet on first listen, with little room for surprise or variance as it oozes along in a cozy, non-conflicting thunder. Even more fluid as other Meshell projects, with it following in 2009's Devil's Halo complexity and 1999's Bitter's morose reflections, but Weather bundles all those elements and adds density and an eerie overcast to the fold. Sparse instrumentation provokes you to listen to the material lyrically, and some might miss a meatier backing instead of the brushing of drums, synth swells, and Meshell's basswork, but you come away feeling that the album serves as perfect accompaniment to a quiet evening, with just you and your thoughts in tow.
Thoughts you'll have with each track unfolding. "Oysters" (my favorite) drifts in like sea form to shore, in a comforting coo, while a warm waltzing beat opens up "Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear". With Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel", Meshell caresses the song in such affection that it makes it hard to believe that this is a cover, not an original piece. Not as shivering inducing as her cover of Ready For The World's "Love You Down" from Halo, but still it's still just as alluring.
Sensuality froths up on the blunt, "Petite Mort" which provocative provoking would make even Prince blush. As "Crazy and Wild" a duet of sorts between Meshell and a male 'inner conscious' is a hypnotic pound that just won't let up (and for good reason).
Crazy and Wild
Not all of Weather is meant for cozy moments. First introductions were made with the new wave swell of "Dirty World", which bounces on thick basslines and New Wave-ish squeaks, as does "Chance" with it's chiming pianos. The strumming acoustic swell of "Dead End" manages to put a little spark into the consistency fold.
Meshell is a box-less artist, as it's further proven with Weather. Sure you can squeeze and stuff the influences she embodies, and the multiple annoying music journalistic comparisons to the likes of Joni Mitchell (her closest of musical kin), Jeff Buckley, Weather Report, Traffic, etc. into it to make it all fit. Still it never will for Meshell Ndegeocello, because she's in a class all her own.
Somehow I believe it's because some people cannot believe that a woman of color could easily drift into being a color-less artist (shock! awe!) and since most of her peers either dare not to venture or just mainly dabble past their soul backyards, she's seen as an outsider, a rebel, someone who sticks out. Nothing wrong with that as Meshell has created another rich and submerging work with Weather, with it's contents exuding far beyond "tra-la-la's" and soulful "ooh-ings".
Meshell just is Meshell. Always has been, and always will be.
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Release Date: November 8, 2011