Take 5 Friday: Five (Fab) Albums That Are Spinning 'Round

Friday, August 3, 2012

Reheating leftovers of the week...

To keep the fab-ness going (go Fab Five aka Team USA Women's Gymnastics!) five albums that have been recently released and are currently in rotation by yours truly. Oh, and got five albums you're spinning yourself? Post in comments, I always encourage them!

1. Joss Stone - The Soul Sessions Vol. 2:  Doing cover songs is one thing, but doing a whole album of them is whole 'nother set of chopsticks. You have to keep things engaging for a full set, a feat that is challenging especially since people have heard the material before---probably a hundred times warmed over. In the sequel to her 2003 debut album, Joss Stone once again proves why she's one of Britain's prime vocalists. While there isn't anything as ambitious as "Fell In Love With A Boy" here, the second installment has Stone touching into soulful waters less traveled and easily she glides in it. From The Chi-Lites, to Womack & Womack, and back to The Rolling Stones, you'll be 'Stoned' out of your mind (and that is very good). The stand-outs for me are her takes on Honey Cone's "While You're Out Looking For Sugar" and Sylvia's "Pillow Talk" which are both the equivalent of smelling laundry fresh out of the dryer---warm, fragrant, and inviting.

2. Frank Ocean - channel Orange:  The reviews have been massively gushing. Names like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Sade have been thrown around and laid on thick like Nutella. Personally, channel Orange is good---and that's because so much R&B in the mainstream is pretty generic. He's got to work out some kinks, but debut album wise you'd expect the speed bumps. Ocean has the upper hand, he's got pizzazz in his production and handles words like Faulkner. Really his 'Southern Gothic' lyricism is what makes channel Orange so unique. They're not just songs---they're stories. "Sweet Life" is still very good to me, while "Bad Religion" and "Super Rich Kids" (I hear you, piano riff from Elton John's "Bennie & The Jets") are impressive. I would also love to put a ring on "Pink Matter" with Andre 3000. Still let's see what this cat does in the next oh, year or so.

3. Funkommunity - Chequered Thoughts
New Zealand has become the hot bed for soul music with a twist. While Kimbra continues to make her big splash in the Atlantic, don't count out acts like Funkommunity who are equally just as eclectic and intriguing. I ran across these guys by way of the quasi-Georgia Anne Muldrow tune "Dandelion", which really rocks a good one. So I was anxious to see how a full album would play out. Long-awaited their debut album, Chequred Thoughts was, and the final product was indeed well-worth the wait.  There is something for everyone here---lots of Funk, some House, a bit of Trip-Hop---even instrumentals are creamily mixed in. 80's babies will appreciate the bass grooves on "The Light", while the 70's babies will snap fingers and tap toes to the efforts put on in "Pass It On".

4. Nina Sky - Nicole & Natalie: Just because it's free doesn't mean it's all good. Okay, there are some Rihanna toss-a-ways present on the first album in eight years from the Queens twins, so if you like Rihanna, then by all means. Still I'm always looking at the bigger picture and the bigger picture includes staunch club thumpers like "Day Dreaming" and "Heartbeat" which are great little pick-me-ups. Still the best damn thing on Nicole & Natalie is Salaam Remi's cheeky production on "Never Kissed You" which teases at something unique later on down the line. They've come a long way since "Move Ya Body", but where is the electro-space funk from The Other Side EP?! You can stream and download Nicole & Natalie for free here.

5. Natalie Duncan - The Devil In Me: I have nothing against albums that are artistically meant to be softer fare. It's the execution that is key. Don't bore me to tears (see Paloma Faith's Fall To Grace) and don't bait n' switch me with great singles and blase filler (yes, I'm still harping on Emeli Sande). Be introverted in a land of extroverted people, but do it with some variance and panache, please. I happily introduced you guys to UK piano dame Natalie Duncan back in January and here we are with her debut album, The Devil In Me, which is a quiet little ball of fire that expertly blends lo-fi Rock with hearty helpings of Soul and Jazz. I can't help thinking that the the mystique of Nia Simone's spirit comes up in some of the material, especially when you hear battle cries like "Devil In Me" and "She Done Died" which showcases Duncan's wicked n' raw vocal abilities. Also featured is the excellent "Sky Is Falling" and "Pick Me Up Bar" that feels oh so The Police with it's rock mating with reggae rhythms. Moody tunes, Jazzy textures, and stunning vocals---yep, I can dig it Miss Duncan.

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