I was raised by three powerful black women. Consequently, I have an inclination to be attracted to strong women. So, I'm especially excited to share some new music that is led by a few. Let's get to it.
Brittany Howard - Jaime
If you're a fan of the Alabama Shakes, then you're familiar with the force of nature that is Brittany Howard. When she begins to sing, she literally gives audiences the shakes. It’s hard to imagine anything holding this woman back but, with all due respect to her bandmates, we can hear in her debut solo effort that absolutely nothing is holding her back. Jaime, which is named after her older sister who tragically died at the age of 13 from a rare eye cancer, is totally and triumphantly all Brittany. In an interview with the NY Times, Howard reflects upon her older sister's influence on her as a role model; Jaime was also a musician and writer herself. "She was a thinker. She was a creator. She was just immaculate, just genius-level stuff. She taught me that if it don’t feel right, that means it’s not right. She taught me everything about everything.” Despite the significant impact of her sister, later in the interview Howard states, "The record is not about her. It's about me."
In fact, Jaime is deeply personal and certainly more socially conscious and more raw than her albums with the Alabama Shakes. Howard explores sexuality, spirituality, and attempts to reconcile traumas of the past with experiences of today and tomorrow. The album is an eleven-song excursion that often abandons the constraints of genre and structure. Though the sounds aren't all together alien, the album feels wild and there's something about her vocal performance that evokes a liberating feeling. In fact, in that same NY Times article said, "For me this whole record is like, what do I want to listen to? What do I want to hear?” Howard said. “That’s the whole point. It’s not made for anybody else."
It's a pretty damn good solo debut. I'm certainly impressed, though I didn't expect anything less from Brittany Howard. Check out the visuals for "Stay High" from Jaime, which is out today. By the way, she'll be live on Morning Becomes Eclectic with Garth Trinidad on Mon, Oct 7th. Trust me when I say it's not to be missed.
Sampa The Great - The Return
There aren't many artists who encompass their stage name as accurately as Sampa Tembo. This Zambian born, Australian-based rapper and singer-songwriter, truly is great. Sampa burst onto the scene in 2015 and has been coming out with high quality music ever since. The Return is her debut album and represents Sampa's personal journey of redefining her self-identity away from the comforts of family and old friends. It's a 19-track exploration of what it means to feel at home, to feel excluded, and to see someone as an outsider. Perhaps more specifically, to feel like an outsider.
Sampa collaborated with a wide-range of talents in the underground scene including Jonwayne (Stones Throw) who mixed the album, MsM (Skepta.Boy Better Know), Clever Austin (Drummer of Hiatus Kaiyote), Silentjay and more to create The Return. Collectively, they've crafted a tapestry of sound that masterfully combines Sampa's many influences, ranging from hip-hop to elements of jazz and old school soul to ancient South African sounds. A great example of this is the song "OMG."
Men I Trust - Oncle Jazz
Though Men I Trust has been around since 2015, I only discovered this trio about a year and half ago; and they have quickly become one of my favorite outfits since then. If you're an avid listener to KCRW then it’s possible you’ve noticed I'm not the only one who has a fondness for Men I Trust. Their songs can be played at both 11am & 11pm, because somehow this group from Montreal has mastered a sound that is quintessential California.
Oncle Jazz is their debut as a trio and led by lead singer Emma Proulx's sultry vocals, it evokes fantasies of riding up the coast with the top down. In fact, that's exactly what Proulx can be seen doing in the video for "Norton Commander (All We Need)." The background will look familiar if you live in Southern California as she explores the streets of Los Angeles and the 10 freeway.
Songs like "Norton Commander (All We Need)", "Numb" and my personal favorite "Show Me How" construct a sonic landscape that's laid-back, seductive, psychedelic, and a little funky all in one. Like I said, pure Cali. One of several songs that encapsulates all of this, is the aforementioned "Numb" Take a listen. Oncle Jazz is available on all streaming services today.