I would normally give you a bit of a preamble here, but there is suddenly an abundance of new music to check out, so Ima keep it short here, ’cause I’m gonna be busy listening to all the new stuff, and pumping out the posts the next few weeks. When this is posted, it will be on one of the biggest release dates of the year; because I’m not important enough to get advance copies of new music like most music critics, I can’t review the music until it actually comes out. Maybe that will change one day (anybody listening???).
In this post, I’m taking a spin on new tunes from bluesman Fantastic Negrito, a new project from Gospel fusionist Mali Music, the latest from Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto, and a new project from UK producer Romare.
When I first heard the name Fantastic Negrito a couple of years ago, it intrigued me, so I checked out his music; at the time, it didn’t do anything for me. That album, 2018’s Please Don’t Be Dead, went on to win a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Blues Album. For his latest album, the Oakland, CA – based guitarist born as Xavier Dphrepaulezz presents a project seemingly in tune with the times in which it was released. Have You Lost Your Mind Yet is 11 new tracks of his unique approach to modern day Blues, starting (as you can see by the album cover) with his look.
Perhaps the best way to describe his sound is to imagine Blues filtered through the lens of Prince or George Clinton – funky, occasionally goofy, but always fun, yet thought-provoking. From the beginning notes of the opening Blues boogie “Chocolate Samurai“, which echoes the album’s title (and is a PERFECT pandemic anthem), to the Blues meets Gospel meets Hip-hop single “I’m So Happy I Cry“, you’re in for quite a ride. He’s a serious Blues artist with a what seems to be a humorous side, usually an oxymoron, but his points of view are actually serious, but cleverly, and often humorously, presented. “Searching for Captain Save a Hoe” features rapper E-40, and isn’t about saving a woman, but saving the man, who is the real whore, while “Your Sex is Overrated” is about the weaponization of sex. “How Long” discusses police brutality, while “All Up In My Space” speaks of that claustrophobic feeling sometimes while in a relationship.
I don’t know what I was hearing before that didn’t agree with me when I listened to him, but I’m really diggin’ this right about now… And then I went back and revisited the last album, and now I’m diggin’ that one, too. Here’s two videos from the album, “Chocolate Samurai” and “I’m So Happy I Cry“, which features Tarriona Ball from Tank and the Bangas…
The last album from Kortney Pollard, aka Mali Music, started to gently pull the 32 year old Savannah, GA – based musician towards the mainstream. 2017’s “The Transition of Mali” featured guest appearances from Soul divas Jazmine Sullivan and Jhene Aiko, and was not received well by some in the Gospel community; I, however, loved it. His new album “The Book of Mali” seems to have him drifting into another different direction (musically), this one more Hip-hop based.
I’m not quite sure, but this album seems to aim at Lecrae’s style for its’ own inspiration. It’s heavy on the Trap style, but also very wordy and metaphorical, like the best Hip-hop. His messages remain God-centric and focused, but is covered in a different kind of wrapping – not a bad thing. Standout tracks include the acoustic (and not Trap) protest anthem “Cry“, also an earlier single “Mo’Lo (Like You)“, also the soulful “My Blessings (Love Me)” which kinda felt John Legend-ish, and “Lord Forgive Me“.
For me, this one isn’t quite what I’d hoped for, and part of that may be my own personal taste. I’m not a big fan of Trap, and this album is influenced by it to a large degree. Overall, the message is still there, and I applaud him for trying to reach an audience he may not otherwise reach, and that is our disaffected youth. It’s got plenty of soul saving, inspirational tunes without coming across as overtly holy – he presents the messages as bare and as human as he can, and puts them in a language the intended audience can understand. I just felt “trapped” by the music and the message’s style of delivery… oh well, can’t have it all. Here is his video for “Cry“…
Here’s another artist of whom I’ve been a fan since she hit the market about 20 years ago; I’ve not paid much attention to Bebel Gilberto since her 2004 self-titled second album. I had the pleasure of catching her live at Cabaret Metro in Chicago in 2000 in support of her excellent Tanto Tempo album, but she’s released a couple of albums since which I hadn’t purchased (because it sounded like she was edging towards the mainstream). Her latest album, Agora, returns back the bit of edginess that I found some of her previous music to be lacking. The 54 year old Gilberto is the daughter of Joao Gilberto, considered the father of Bossa Nova; both he and her mother, as well as her best friend, have passed since her last studio album, 2014’s Tudo, so she took the necessary time to grieve before releasing new music.
The music here is absolutely beautiful : mellow, languid, soothing tracks perfect for late nights, or chilling at the beach. Generally, they’re rooted in the sound of a muted Bossa, Samba, or Tropicalia, supplemented with mild electronic accents; you hear the sophisticated Jazz similar to Swing Out Sister (her voice is soothing, like Corinne Drewery’s), and some ‘bachelor pad’ Lounge, too. The bit of edge hearkens back to Tanto Tempo, which was produced by progressive producer, the late Suba. Three tracks were released prior to the full album: “Deixa“, the excellent “Bolero“, and “Na Cara“. There is also the track “O Que Nao Foi Dito” which translates as “What Was Not Said”, a track written for her father; sadly, he never got to hear it.
As far as I’m concerned, this album brings her full circle back to the sound I fell in love with 20 years ago. It’s lush, gorgeous, music with jussst enough of a edge to complement the loungey-ness. She and her music have aged very gracefully… love this! Here’s the video for “Deixa“….
A song from this artist just happened to pop up in one of my Spotify playlists created for me; it intrigued me enough to learn more about him, and check out the album. Romare is the artist name for British EDM producer Archie Fairhurst; he is named after African-American collage artist and Charlotte, NC native Romare Bearden. Home is his third studio album, following up 2016’s Love Songs : Part 2.
What you get with Romare is a kind of minimalist, left-field House music, the best examples of it being “Sunshine” and “The River“; otherwise, it’s kinda Electro – based grooves like “Dreams“, and NuDisco like “You See” and “Heaven“. There is a slightly jazzy piece “Deliverance“, midtempo EDM (“High“), and the slightly spooky title track.
This has some nice grooves to it; its’ minimalism smacks of the early years of Electronic body music; it even reminds me a little of a group like Trio (remember “Da Da Da“?) and George Kranz’ “Din Daa Daa“, or even some early Yello (they have a new album out now I’ll be reviewing soon, too). Here’s an audio clip for “Sunshine“…