Long and short players that received heavy rotation in October...
Kiesza - Sound Of A Woman
Want an album that takes crisp nostalgic detours into '90s House and Hip-Hop? Want a singer that has combed through the vocal rulebooks of Robin S. and CeCe Peniston and steps into the platforms of DeeeLite's Miss Lady Kier with flourishing abandon? Then Kiesza and her Sound Of A Woman project is the antidote. The massive "Hideaway" was the electric current towards Canada's latest export, and Sound Of A Woman keeps the charge alight as Kiesza just sings her mutha fuggin' ass off. Yes, literally sings her rump off on this as exhibits like "The Love", "Piano" and "No Enemiesz" have you aware to that fact. Kiesza has got some pipes on her and they are primed and polished, bringing back yearn for those days where Mariah Carey's voice was in much better shape, and Whitney Houston was singing about being a queen of the night.
She can tone it down for ballad sake, and though her slowdown take of Haddaway's "What Is Love" is a little too precious, she brings things down to a smolder when "So Deep" and "Cut Loose" come slinking in with bedroom eyes and quivering lips. Some sequencing discrepancy aside, Sound Of A Woman is what a cohesive and vocally astute powerhouse diva album is supposed to sound like.
Goapele - Strong As Glass
Goapele has been edging slightly away from her earthy soul roots for some time now as 2010's Break Of Dawn was kind of a clue that the Bay Area songstress was going for warmer electric climates. Strong As Glass is another board on the bridge towards Goapele blending her neo-soul with future R&B, and as a whole she gets the script right, making tunes for the grown and sexy crowd. I was already pleasantly surprised over the re-working of current single, "Hey Boy" as the addition of Snoop Dogg wasn't reductive in the slightest --- even though I've been worn on the call and rapper response for some time now.
The rest of Strong As Glass is just as pleasant, if not as eclectic as Break Of Dawn, but Goapele is showing the sophisticated side to Afro Future by fusing lovingly drawn imagery with hypnotic rhythms. Still there are plenty of bouncy trap jams ("Powerful") and sultry slow dances ("Some Call It Love") packed in just ten tracks, with some nods towards Goapele's 2002 debut, Even Closer in ("Last Days"). Still, stay woke for the gorgeous piano-led title track, and the expansive and technically engaging, "Truth Is", which both bookend the album smartly. Plus all the points in the world go to that severely great album cover...because where can I get that hat?!
Jessie Ware - Tough Love
Jessie Ware has a good ear towards the her fellow UK chanteuses, as the past notes of Sade, Alison Moyet, and Annie Lennox are hard to ignore on Tough Love. For round two, Ware no doubt brings a delicacy to her vocal craft, and quietly she thunders again, proving why everyone made a big deal about her back in 2012 when she released her thrilling debut, Devotion. Though Tough Love is a little too sterile in comparisons to her debut, it's still just as hauntingly sound as Ware is sensually astute, and plays like the best girlfriend who's been there, romanced that, and has come out alive to tell the tale, and she's got some stories and they pull the heart string.
A lot of the BenZel produced set (especially as single, "Say You Love Me" is concerned) notes that she's gunning for the mainstream love, itching to possibly follow in line with Adele and Sam Smith, who have successfully managed to be serene and soulful in a EDM world. She's got a great arsenal to do so as "Cruel", "Sweetest Song", and the angelic "Champagne Kisses" are noted highlights, along with the Dusty Springfield inspired and Dev Hynes co-written, "Want Your Feeling", and the soon-to-be-classic title track which is just breathtaking. With each tear Ware vocally sheds, she's mending, and us right along with her.
Betty Who - Take Me Where You Go
The Movement and Slow Dancing started it all, and rightfully transformed the bleached coiffed Betty Who from a virtual unknown to a pop diva contender. With so many artists these days who introduce themselves with multiple EPs usually when it's time to tune into the long player there is always something left to be desired. Take Me Where You Go isn't one of those albums as it builds upon the froth pop Miss Who is noted for while also balancing things out with familiar big hitters like "Heartbreak Dream" and her debut single, "Somebody Who Loves You". Still don't count out the infectious surprises that are nestled here.
Take Me Where You Go is a Starburst of an album, where you get nothing but strawberry and cherry flavored gems like "Runaways", "A Night To Remember", and the '80s rush that is "Glory Days". Who also brings a little pop balladry into the mix as the longing, "California Rain" and dreamy "Missing You" note that Who can bring those piping hot pipes of her down to a smolder. Plus the fantastic ode to being young and broke, "High Society", is present on this set --- and that is always a win-win situation in my book.
Gorgon City - Sirens
Jennifer Hudson, MNEK, Erik Hassle, Katy B, Laura Welsh...the guest list is staggering on Gorgon City's debut Sirens, but all of them slip into the sleek twilight lounge that the duo from North London have formulated with precision. Naturally the guys of Gorgon City are going to give Disclosure, another duo of House revival hipness, a little run, but while the Lawrence brothers are focused on pouncing on you with strident beats, Gorgon City are much more tuned into the rhythm and blues of House, as they go deeper into its interior with velvety and soulful tones.
Though most of the names featured aren't familiar, you'll soon learn about Maverick Sabre, Yasmin, and Zak Abel (whose "Unmissable" is already the showcase here), and their particular features are not to be skipped. Still what is the fairest track of them all? That honor goes to Jennifer Hudson's guest feature, as she makes House home on the fantastic, "Go All Night" prompting the glaring fact that we need more of our big diva voices to go in this direction.
Jennifer Hudson - JHUD
Speaking of Jennifer Hudson...I admit to not checking for Miss Hudson musically after being bamboozled by her debut 2008 album. Not that I denied Hudson's voice or her talent (she's one of the best mainstream singers we have at current), it's just that I wondered who she had pissed off because her voice kept latching up to such banal beats and basic lyrical sheets that it felt personal to me. Or maybe someone just really had enough of those Weight Watchers commercials.... JHUD proves the third album is the charm as it's a cohesive collection that finally does Hudson's voice justice, and allows her to throw glitter in the air at the same time.
It's nothing but a girls night out when she straps on her party pumps to zip through funky numbers like "Say It", "It's Your World", and "Just That Type Of Girl", and downs spiked rum punches like single, "Dangerous". Hudson doesn't get too swept up in the groove as she flexes those chops and goes deep into the pulpit for "Moan" or brings breaths of fresh air for odes like "Bring Back The Music". Though she keeps company with the likes of Timbaland, Iggy Azelea, and R. Kelly, they all play as a great supporting cast while Hudson leads and brings the class as she adopts a mirrorballed diva vibe a la Evelyn "Champagne" King and Cheryl Lynn, making all kinds of smart musical moves.
The Seshen - Unravel
Bay Area eclectics The Seshen aren't shy about doing the whole climbing out of boxes and coloring outside the lines bit as Unravel, their latest collection, is an multifaceted feast for those who just aren't satisfied with having their music served one way. Coasting on an aesthetic of rhythmically complex cadences and inspired by J Dilla, Afro Beat, Indie Rock --- and well literally every freaking genre --- The Seshen travel through their influences well, cosmic climbing into such trances like "Oblivion" or climbing the craggy exteriors of "Turn" and the adventurous title track, which takes some obvious notes from Little Dragon.
With only six tracks you feel that it's sufficient enough for a collective's debut EP, but its labyrinth of sounds will keep you busy for hours, as you get fully sucked into the stacked tracks and keep on pressing the repeat button. There truly is a lot to 'unravel' here, and plenty to be savored.