Rewind: Favorite Albums + EPs Of 2016

2016 --- I hate you so much right now.

You were weird, wild, petty, and problematic. I don't want to think about you much again, more like I do not want to think of all the grossness and cruelness that you were. I'd rather remember the beauty that hid inside your shadows, the melodies that rose above your screams, but even that's hard to do considering that you didn't work for me on an aural level either.

2016 was probably my worst music year. I really hate saying this but it's true. A lot of albums and artists just flat-out disappointed me, or just didn't engage me in the way I wanted them too. Maybe it's because I turned 30 this year and can't connect with what the young whippersnappers are into? Or maybe I was too much in mourning for all the cool geniuses we lost in the world of sound? Or maybe I just made bad choices --- as I am prone to do. I don't know, but I was tossed in a frigid wave of indecision and jadedness throughout the year, finding solace in vintage sounds more so, and feeling removed from whatever newness I was supposed to be fawning over.

Still as bleak as this all sounds, I wasn't lying about there being beauty in the shadows as there were a select few albums and artists who rose to the occasion for me, and spoke on my level, giving me something I could feel. On another plus, 2016 was also was the Blackest, and most feminist year for music yet, which was good, great even, and before you ask, no I did not drink the "Lemonade" as there were other, more thirst-quenching drinks at the bar to sample that were more my flavor.

Though this selection of favorites is small, I do have (as usual) a lot to say about them, so without further ado, this is what moved and grooved me this year. So let's be kind and rewind...

(In no particular order)

+ + + + +

The Heart Speaks In Whispers - Corinne Bailey Rae 
Release Date: May 13th 
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What a difference six years makes...

When we last heard from Corinne Bailey Rae she was nursing her wounded heart on 2010's The Sea, an album made in the aftermath of her husband, musician Jason Rae's tragic death. Flash to now, it's no more good morning, heartache, as Corinne courts to change on her third outing, The Heart Speaks In Whispers. For some artists going back to start, or retreading worn emotion is not a wise move, but for Corinne rewinding through her past lent to a refocus on her future, giving Heart its soul, and Corinne the chance to evolve better than ever.

Unlike the inky churn of heartbreak that embodied The SeaHeart yearns to break free from such gloaming. Just look at the album cover --- Corinne, beige and blue, suspended in motion, attempting to breakaway from the darkness, fusing herself amid kaleidoscopic watercolored light --- this is a transition, a way to merge her past selves to understand the woman she has become now, a woman who is on the road to meeting healing halfway.

While the twinkle-eyed young girl who peddled down a wide-open country road to introduce her summery breakout single, "Put Your Records On" is really no more, some of that optimistic glow comes up amid Heart's spacious grooves and poetically sound lyricals. She lounges in sensual bliss on the '70s love groove of "Green Aphrodisiac", and giggles soft in afternoon delight on "Horse Print Dress". At times she's also still churning in that aqua, pensive and unsure, as she proceeds with cautious optimism on "Hey, I Won't Break Your Heart", collides into conflicting bygone emotions on "Been To The Moon", and consoles herself on the bittersweet act of change on the episodic cosmic climb, "The Skies Will Break".

Corinne also knows we don't always heal alone, as she shares this cathartic journey with guest stars Esperanza Spalding, KING, and Moses Sumney, and they provide her the healing, rhythmic base to liberate new spaces of sound and technique for her, giving permission that brings her guard down to embrace pulsating soulful pop this side of "Tell Me" and space-y heavy funk oddities like "Taken By Dreams".

As she eases out in "Caramel", it isn't love that makes you brave, but pain, and if there is life and love after heartache, Corinne Bailey Rae has been there, done that, shifted out of darkness into dusk, living to tell the tale, as she redefines that age-old saying that time truly does heal all wounds.

Highlights: Green Aphrodisiac, Been To The Moon, The Skies Will Break, Caramel, Tell Me, Hey I Won't Break Your Heart, Horse Print Dress

You Got The Luck [EP] - Sidibe
Release Date: May 9th
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Quoted from review: 
Like Soul Siren, You Got Luck is for those who like their soul to transcend genres, as well as remain rooted in the traditional. From the cumulus-parting of ethereal opener "You Wanna Love Everybody" to the steamy and seducing Janet Jackson-esque "Maybe", Sidibe takes you on a sublime n' soulful wanderlust that blends in house, funk, and world music with the casual accessibility of R&B and pop, all of it caressed with Sidibe's angelic coos and come-hithers. It's truly a collection to get lost in not just by the various temperaments in Sidibe's vocals, but by how absorbing the music is, with the Eastern flavors of "Everything I Wouldn't Do" and the intertwining of '70s-era jazz fusion and '90s era neo-soul of the title-track being the key standouts of such experimentation. 

Highlights: You Wanna Love Everybody, I'm Only Dreaming, Maybe, Everything I Wouldn't Do 

Chapters - Yuna 
Release Date: May 20th 

Quoted from review: 
With "Live Your Life", the Pharrell Williams production from 2012 gave her the 'cred' and put her on notice for those who like their rhythm and blues on ice. Her sophomore set, 2013's Nocturnal, burst with indie pop and folk influence, but the inclusions of alt-R&B and Hip-Hop tastemakers Chad Hugo and Robin Hannibal on production gave her an edge that made songs like "I Want You Back" and the single "Fallen" ruminations in the modern blues. So hinting at R&B reincarnation ain't a new bag for Yuna, in fact, she has made the complete transition, courting the right spark with Chapters.

I'll be real and say that not everything present on Chapters is a page-turner. As the mood swings from rapture to dejection, Chapters can get a little preoccupied in its morose and monochromatic soundbed, at times doing little to no favors for Yuna when it comes to tonal control. Yet like all good literature, Chapters does linger in the mind after the last word is uttered, urging you to re-read and experience this understated collection anew.

Highlights: Crush (feat. Usher), Best Love, Lanes, Unrequited Love, Manniquen, Best Of Me

Coconut Oil [EP] - Lizzo
Release Date: October 7th
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As the 2016 Election left a bad taste in my mouth, with Trumpocalypse on the (unfortunate) rise, I need something for the self-care soundtrack during this odious time. Something rebellious. Something that stands tall in its steel-gaze determination and makes me want to (and to paraphrase the GOAT in my lifetime, First Lady, Michelle Obama) go high, while everyone else aims low. Lizzo's "Worship" may not call-to-arms the revolution, but as it shimmies and shakes on a braggadocios fervor and mambo-swiveling beats, rallying with cries of "I'm lit, don't mess with it!", it's Teflon spirit celebrates the fact that the biggest protest of all is to stand in your truth.

Swathed in self-love, "Worship" is one of the many bangers on Lizzo's big-label debut, Coconut Oil, an EP that lives up to its namesake as it is nourishment for growth and a salve to soothe body, mind, and soul. On six-tracks the Minneapolis-bred missy takes a little time for herself, sometimes getting lost (or losing her phone) along the way, trying to deal with this thing called Life. Whether she's preening in the mirror, feelin' on what stares back at her ("Scuse Me") or laying down the law to a lover as she wines on percolating Afro-trap riddims ("Deep"), in the end, Lizzo knows that self-love is that real love that is essential and worth celebrating 24/7/365.

Highlights: Worship, Deep, Scuse Me, Coconut Oil

HEAVN - Jamila Woods 
Release Date: July 8th
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Soulful Chi-Town singer and poetess Jamila Woods had this to say about her debut full-length collection, HEAVN:

HEAVN is about black girlhood, about Chicago, about the people we miss who have gone on to prepare a place for us somewhere else, about the city/world we aspire to live in. I hope this album encourages listeners to love themselves and love each other. For black and brown people, caring for ourselves and each other is not a neutral act. It is a necessary and radical part of the struggle to create a more just society. Our healing and survival are essential to the fight. 

As if I could even add to that...but HEAVN does expertly appraise what growing up Black and Girl entails, with pointed snapshots on invisibility ("Bubbles"), self-preservation ("Lonely Lonely"), personal ownership ("In My Name"), and the tenacity to fight for our unique place in society ("Blk Girl Solider"). Like Emily's D+EvolutionCoconut OilTelefoneA Seat At The Table, and a bevy of albums that follow the #BlackGirlMagic tradition, HEAVN too rests in naked determination to not be boxed in, shouting out loud and shaking the foundation with verbal acumen, abolishing stereotypes of how a Black female artist should raise her voice, and craft her sound. This album is utter sisterhood, utter 'Blackness', that digs deep for those she's reaching out to, but in turn is a source of knowledge for those who never realized this school of thought existed.

After having a successful run as one-half of Milo and Otis, backing fellow Chi-Town luminaries Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment, and with a prominent feature on Macklemore's controversial, "White Privilege II", Woods gets to have her say here, tapping into a groundswell of genres that nod at Erykah Badu, feature such acts as Noname and Peter Cottontale, and range across the R&B and hip-hop spectrum.

If we all get to our own private heavens, let it be this sonically sublime and this socially aware as HEAVN, to where we bloom beautiful and authentic as our own true selves, as Jamila Woods has done within her own art. 

Highlights: HEAVN, Blk Girl Solider, Lonely Lonely, Bubbles, Emerald St., Lately, LSD

Telefone [EP] - Noname 
Release Date: July 31st
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Quoted from review: 
The 10-track player, which features guest spots from Raury, Eryn Allen Kane and Saba, unfolds as a conversation within, a social studies of self and surroundings. There are some heavy duty topics here --- addiction, police brutality, relationships, familial bonds, the transition from child to adult --- and they are timely, and necessary in all of their expression. Aside from the abortion realness of skewed lullaby of "Bye Bye Baby", where mother and baby trade dialogue, "Casket Pretty" stands out as the most brutal truth that is spilled on the record, as its lyrics drum up the emotional strain, mistrust, and the constant violent images we've witnessed on timelines and TV concerning unarmed African-Americans being unjustly gunned down by the men (and women) in blue. ("All my n----s is casket pretty/ain't no one safe in this happy city/I'm afraid of the dark blue and white/badges and pistols rejoice in the night").

Not all is grim and weeping on Telefone. Optimism blooms on the gorgeous, "Yesterday", as it opens the album like a promising, serene morning, with Noname reminiscing about lost love ones, and how such losses, the "little things that saved her soul" taught her about the deeper corners of love and life. Sharing love with another, with personal ground rules in tow, is nicely rendered on "All I Need". On "Reality Check" while rejecting the mainstream and highlighting the creative roadblocks that lent to why Telefone took three years to compile, but the song is motivational in how Noname persists with her art in the fashion she does, Eryn Allen Kane quelling doubts with her genial hook ("Don't fear the light, that dwells deep within/ You are powerful, beyond what you imagine/Just let your light glow"). The albums consensus is that there is light at the end, keep following.

Highlights: Casket Pretty, Yesterday, Reality Check, Bye Bye Baby, Sunny Duet, All I Need

Stranger Things Have Happened - Clare Maguire 
Release Date:

Quoted from review: 

Stranger Things Have Happened is the album Maguire should have made when the hype was up and she had some room to stretch her legs in the median of Winehouse's rising popularity and Adele's first take. Still Maguire's white girl blues ain't like Adele, nor does it match with the heavily intoxicated world-weariness of the late Miss Winehouse. Maguire has a crystal clear classic tone that is more of a "Holly Golightly in flux" vibe than a back-breaking bluewoman. "Faded" opens the album with this kind of flair. It has parallels to Feist in its lounge act, but also beguiles with 'smoking room only' jazz quality. When the strings needle in, the song is clinking champagne glasses filled with muddied, salted tears. It's stylish, but still so raw.

Tinges of '60s era soul and psychedelia crop up amid the album's stripped back sound, more specifically on the elegiac and epic title track, even a stabs at gospel are compiled (the tambourine testify "Here I Am"), but Maguire is in her element more so when she's torching it up, forgoing the theatrics to be as nuanced and subtle as she allows herself taking us through a journey of love and the wicked turning of tables.

Lead-off single, the elegantly fragile "Elizabeth Taylor" is a perfect example of this as she storytells the turbulent love life of the legendary actress, but in some ways its also Maguire's tale to weave and be woebegone. In a recent (and pretty riveting) interview with Noisey, Maguire divulges not only her struggle with substance abuse, but confesses that in the weeks after becoming clean she found herself shackled to a toxic romance that left her reeling in depression. For a time Maguire couldn't even get out of bed, her pain was just too raw, and she too vulnerable to move a muscle. In fact, "Swimming" was recorded right from her bed, this after a musician's friend's insistence, and in its latticed guitar work, you can sense Maguire coming undone.

Highlights: Stranger Things Have Happened, Elizabeth Taylor, Swimming, Falling Leaves, Faded

Sugar Symphony [EP] - Chole x Halle 
Release Date:

Quoted from review: 
With their debut EP, Sugar Symphony (and its total eye candy cover --- dig on the homages to Run DMC's King of Rock and the classic baby-breath coif of Minnie Riperton), Chloe x Halle hit a sweet spot where alt-R&B, electronica, and trap collide. Their restrained, yet gorgeously haunting vocals garnish the heady mix to peerless effect, all of it wrapped in a sense of awareness towards pop music aesthetic. "Drop", their debut single, is a prime example of such a understanding as the excellent and startlingly mature track crawls through a nocturnal fog of dense beats, the sisters voices echoing eerie like restless ghosts. All it takes is one listen and your spine will chill --- in a good way.

Highlights: Drop, Lazy Love, Thunder 

New Skin - JONES 
Release Date: October 7th 
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Some say that soul is dead. That it's on life support with R&B lying in state next to it. Sometimes I believe this considering how thin and limited the talent pool for the genre(s) are, and how careless it gets handled. For a time now, soul and R&B have forgotten themselves, too busy being ratchet, electronic, trapped. New Skin is almost a cathartic shedding of such practices, stripping soul down to its bare elements, but still polishing it up to give it glow and definition.

With the first spin, New Skin evokes the immediate cool, crystalline calm of fellow Briton, Jessie Ware, as its packed with similar spacious soul/pop balladry, some of which aren't as arousing in their slow cadences as what unfurled on Ware's pair of Devotion and Tough Love, but New Skin does have an exquisite, nimble beauty to it when a second helping is initiated. The ease of JONES' caramel-coated tone, and how palpable and pliable it is, is what evolves the material, allowing it to really express the potent emotions that are embedded in. Such standouts like the tender, "Waterloo" and brooding opener "Rainbow" are songs you feel, songs that linger due to their effortlessness. Breakout single, "Hoops" feels even more naked, and candid when enveloped inside New Skin's confessional booth.

JONES has also nicely latticed melancholia with a little bit of desire here, as not every song hides in a shroud of doubt. "Out Of This World" rides its crash of synth waves, as "Walk My Way" embraces a cheerful bounce, but they don't compare to the sublime tranquil of HONNE-produced, "Melt" with its warm guitars and delicious harmonies. "Melt" is an inkling, much like her one-off "Air", that hint at her diversion among the monotonous pack of her electro-soul pop peers, this pair being even above some of the more sub-par material here.

Enchanting is this debut, and while it won't necessarily turn the tides, it does breathe life and purpose back into the lost art of the soulful serenade.

Highlights: Melt, Hoops, Rainbow, Waterloo, Walk My Way, Lonely Cry, Wild

Nothing's Real - Shura 
Release Date:

Quoted from review: 
What might cause an eyebrow to raise is that Nothing's Real is a Millennial's reflection of the era. All of what's on here is second-hand nostalgia that is vicariously lived through Molly Ringwald's eyes, as Shura is 25 years young, and didn't even breathe a breath in the decade she captures right down to the neon piping and its fraught kinetics. She's so detailed, so dead-on that you wonder if Shura has had some sort of collision with the time-space continuum, and she's either time traveling or she's older than she's actually stating, on that immortal-being steez.

Shameless it all is, but Nothing's Real while marinated in the processed synth n' splendor and reading from the textbook of every John Hughes high school drama ever, doesn't feel like its exploring the sound because Shura is getting her Columbus on. She's not stating with this that she eureka! discovered how to work synths and programmers like a Baby Howard Jones, but more so she's giving credence to it timelessness, and noticing how well the past can work in the present.

Nothing's Real also basks in its archetypal Britishness, as its theatrical and examines matters of the heart with allegorical and anthropological flair this side of ABC and Spandau Ballet, digging deeper than what is on the plasticity of its pop veneer. The opening title track is epic in the sense of its dramatic instrumental entrance with shooting star synths, sweep of strings, echoing Duran Duran and ABC's sensibility to combine Chic with Roxy Music. The glorious back-to-back duo of "Tongue Tied" and "Make It Up" owes itself to the languid lullabies and thatched drumwork of Teases & Dares-era Kim Wilde. And for just a spell Shura hops a flight across the Atlantic to the City of Angels as the effervescent "What's It Gonna Be?" swings in the Cali harmonies of Lindsey Buckingham, and "What Happened To Us?" is ocean sprayed The Bangles style.

When I use words like 'intimate' and 'familiar', I mean it. Nothing's Real is an album that for all of its vicariously lived nostalgia, its discussions of being detached in relationships, and Shura going out of body to do autopsies on herself, this is and album that feels faithful to self, to life, to growing up and being in a mixed cocktail of emotion about it. These sounds, these feelings, these are Shura's...and they are well, myself, and everybody who has come to that craggy mountain climb called adulthood.
Highlights: Make It Up, Nothing's Real, 2Shy, What's It Gonna Be?, Tounge-Tied, Kidz n' Stuff, Touch

For All We Know - Nao 
Release Date: July 29th
To deep freeze soul and still in the end evoke warmth takes some skill, a skill that Nao has mastered on her debut, For All We Know. Here the songs are heavy with heartbreak, but in turn, they hint at dappled optimism, with the sugar-sweet tone of Nao's coos alluding to such possibility. Also a disparate mix of genres --- slick gut-quaking funk, skittish UK bass, pulsing deep house --- all ride that seamless fine line, each one fusing into the other to form a hard candied, homogenized sound.

But who is Nao to be so precise, so on-point in lyrical and figurative favor, and doing so on her first full-length release? She's British newest electro-soulster who drew attentions in the underground with her EPs and variant guest spots for acts such as Mura Masa and Disclosure, paying her dues with ease. Here on For All We Know, Nao gets to stretch and sprawl out more, and at 18-tracks deep it does feel overly ambitious, but the overall flow is as if we're flies on the wall to a experimental, well-drafted jam session that lasts into all hours of the night.

As it has hooks for days, For All We Know owes its melodic structure to '90s R&B. Vocally, Nao has got the rhythm of Brandy down, while the helium-pitched bluesy 'twang' is a misbegotten Billy Lawrence coming back into the fold (All you gotta do is hear "Happiness" to catch my drift...). Such similarities are hard to bypass, and foretell to how this album will be digested by '90s kids. The imitation is flattery forming, and makes the nostalgic daytrip some kind of bliss, as songs like the squishy TLC-esque  "Happy" and the Jungle-produced "Get To Know Ya" barreling in on snarling guitars and lizard-licking bass, making a groove that is undeniably still rocking flannel and door-knocker earrings. Even "Adore You" has Nao reviving the angle of the male-female duet, a staple of the '90s R&B, as Abhi/Dijon orbits around her, recalling such iconic Mars-Venus pairings as Mary J. Blige and K-Ci HaileyBabyface and Toni Braxton.

Nao may harbor a soft spot for the sounds of her youth, but she isn't soft on experiment. Jai Paul's brother A.K. Paul assists on the guttural thrusts of "Trophy", a track that is a collision course of their divergent styles and a reunion of the purple-hued passion they ignited on 2013's "So Good". The iconic opening cries on Kate Bush "This Woman's Work" are reawaken on "In The Morning" but Nao doesn't echo long, as she owns her message, owns her sound creating work that is full of fire, but also knows when to place itself on ice.

Highlights: Happy, Inhale Exhale, In The Morning, Get To Know Ya, Girlfriend, Feels Like (Perfume), Bad Blood

A Seat At The Table - Solange 
Release Date: September 30th 
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There is a method to Solange's magic.

Ever since the 2012 release of her critically acclaimed short-player, True, Solange has come of age. Constantly shape-shifting and revitalizing through whatever venture she sees fit. It's been fun to see her resume swell, see her assert herself as a social media warrior, curate an alternative art-y circle with her Saint Heron outfit, marvel at her evolution with fashion (I have a Pinterest board to prove my obsession), and just see her be the all-around culture cool girlfriend we wish to clink mimosa glasses with.

Climbing out of the shadow of her sister (do we have to name her name again?) was no easy feat, impossible even as people can't stop talking, but Solange has surprised us all by flourishing left of center, carving out her niche, and now drawing out her own seat at the table.

With such growth, such inner-introspection, A Seat At The Table goes beyond being a musical think-piece on the last few years that have unfolded in front of our eyes. Its a stance that --- and to paraphrase the fighting words of our illustrious First Lady, Michelle Obama --- expresses the lows, but aims to go high. Examining the facets of the historical and societal ills that have been inflicted on Black-Americans while also celebrating in our truths and triumphs. But it's a mellow fire this time, built on a soundtrack of moody blues and powder plush soul, but it's still fire, intense and searing. An album that is so serene, so delicate, but so nourishing that it will make your soul, and your 'fro grow a few inches.

From the supple serenity of "Cranes In The Sky", to the taunt proud stance of "F.U.B.U." with Master P and Mama Knowles' wisdom infused in-between, A Seat At The Table is unapologetically BLACK as it is unapologetically HUMAN, going beyond a think-piece, a tweet, or a Tumblr repost, and hitting straight to the marrow through a stylized crop of self-care anthems meant to not only to express frustration, but to rise above it. 

Highlights: Cranes In The Sky, Don't Touch My Hair, Borderline (An Ode To Self-Care), Don't You Wait, Don't Wish Me Well, Junie, Where Do We Go, F.U.B.U (For Us, By Us)

Emily's D+Evolution - Esperanza Spalding
Release Date: March 4th 
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So few times I've agreed with whoever receives those coveted gilded gramophones called Grammys, and one of those few times was when Esperanza Spalding was awarded for Best New Artist in 2011. Spalding's win was a jolting and pleasant surprise from my end, but on the opposite pole, her win was met with antagonism as Spalding had "derailed" the teen idol domination of Justin Bieber, and brought in questioning of the Grammy's ruling for new artists, changing the rules as a result.

The Best New Artist honor is a promise. It's a prediction and an expectation on the future course of music and its evolvement. Spalding on the outset may appear to be an artist who took on the "Best New Artist Curse", as she doesn't register with fervor on mainstream's often smoked and mirrored radar, but the joke has been on the doubters and those Bieber fans who grossly wanted Spalding to "die in a hole", as Spalding prefers to be detached from the gloss of fame. Lost in oblivion is what Spalding prefers as its great for the complexion, the brain cells, and for the cultivation of her music. She may have a fan out of President Barack Obama, worked with Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars, and the late Prince, and even has befriended jazz legend, Wayne Shorter, but Spalding isn't someone who preens her feathers for such name drops --- she isn't about justifying her art through accolades and her famous connections --- she has transcended above that.

Emily's D+Evolution is such a transcendent conversation piece. On it, Spalding abandons her jazz roots to embrace her alter-ego "Emily", not here to people please. For Spalding, the bespectacled n' braided "Emily" isn't a docile creature of habit, more so she is an eclectic vessel that flexes experimental and creative gifts, candidly saying things that she, herself might have refrained from in mixed circles. "Emily" is confrontational and boisterous, someone who flips and flutters the bird, challenging the system with strong views on race, class, gender, and faith.

She raises fist skyward on "Funk The Fear" and stands up for her right to exist on the racially-socially charged, "Ebony & Ivy", a largely spoken word assessment of the racial dynamics of collegiate life, that winks towards the complex call-outs of Kendrick Lamar. The zig and zag of the Frank Zappa-esque "Good Lava" is Emily in a swirl of bobbing bass licks that dare voyeurs to have an unapologetic front row seating at her self-possessed femininity and sexuality as they watch "this pretty girl flow". A playfulness is present in these tracks, some harboring a childlike whimsy that is frayed with a bratty edge, like "I Want It Now", a song culled from the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, that through Emily's notion, becomes a thrash metal tantrum, making the foot-stamping fit Veruca Salt had in The Nut Room a docile affair.

Still there is calm in this storm as Emily sports an earth mama nurture evoking introspection as she seeks to find enlightenment and personal connection within the world, embracing all its essences and offers. "Earth To Heaven" has her assessing her faith and the continual conflicts it brings as she treks on her quest for salvation.

What's impressive is that there isn't a name for what Spalding is exuding throughout this project. Prog-rock, overuse of hyphens will pepper explanations, but the beauty of this album is that we haven't invented a category for it, its that free range, that label defying.

Confident and sly Emily may be Esperanza's middle name, but it's an altogether new persona for the once-jazz darling, a persona that she's eagerly trying to get to know in order to understand herself better. Spalding isn't the first, and she certainly won't be the last artist to utilize an 'alter ego' to challenge the creative status quo, but her personal journey, to give voice to a once voiceless entity from within, is not just gimmick or about waving the freak flag as high as it can go, but a conscientious survival mechanism for her art.

Highlights: Judas, Unconditional Love, Ebony & Ivy, Earth To Heaven, Funk The Fear

We Are King - KING 
Release Date: February 5th

Quoted from review:
In the chaotic maze of R&B and its many personalities, We Are King invites a calmer and languid conversation towards how the genre blends with dream pop and electronic ambiance. While not sounding unlike anybody, their sound has the obvious hallmarks of soulful 1970s and 1980s quiet storm. In some lights, they sprawl out in their songs like Anita Baker did so rapturously, while waxing romantic harmony a la Earth, Wind & Fire. KING are sensuous as they are restrained, courting to spark the candlelit magic Babyface and Secrets-era Toni Braxton supplied the 1990s with. Buttons on the sleeve these influences are, as their nostalgia forms its own memories with modern chillwave in their mix that allows them plenty of breathing room to not float too high from the 21st Century aesthetic.

We Are KING doesn't have a distinct structure. It's sonically suspended in an almost drug-induced, meditative mood where the songs seem to melt into each other as if in a liquid stream-of-consciousness. Every corner of the album is filled with thick, full, and luscious sound, leaving no white space in its wake, feeling as if we're frolicking in the floral and fauna of a digitized biome. At times chirps of synths and the occasional horn blat slice through the sonic foliage, this a testament to producer Paris (who plays every instrument on the album) and her playfulness to bolster such attributes all while nicely enclosing everything with the supple vocal blending of Anita and Amber. Such a rich structure finds homage on how jazz and old school funk albums riff off suite-like material, playing out less as singular song, but as an atmospheric experience. Even holdovers from The Story are extended, elongated into even more intoxicating affairs, and if you've kept the EP on heavy rotation like I, listening to them here feels like reuniting with old friends.

For the lovers, the dreamers, and those who want some romance and tenderness resurrected in the conversation of modern rhythm n' blues, We Are KING lays out its terms of endearment well, commending being carefree and humane in a digital age, urging us all to take time out to put the phones down and smell the flowers every once in awhile --- you know for old time's sake.

Highlights: The Greatest, Supernatural, Red Eye, In The Meantime, Oh Please, Carry On, Love Song
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