Archived entries for R&B

Nite Jewel: mighty real

One of my favourite new bands of the last couple of years is Nite Jewel, which is basically Ramona Gonzalez from Los Angeles. She’s the singer, songwriter, keyboardplayer and producer. Nite Jewel’s debut album was a little bit too lo-fi for my tastes, which is why I’m very happy with the sound of “Am I Real?”, #nowplaying on 22tracks’ pop playlist.

Nite Jewel’s album Good Evening (2008), and last year’s “Want You Back” single both had a disco pulse that is missing from Am I Real?, the new EP. That’s okay though, because Gonzalez has a way with chords and beats and melody that is invariaby mesmerising. She showed as much, in September of last year, when Nite Jewel (three people) played its first show in Amsterdam and I got really into it. The music is funky, and jazzy, and poppy but at the same time elusive, hazy and dreamy. “Am I Real?” definitely has some ’80s R&B in it. Watch Nite Jewel make a song with likemind Dâm-Funk late last year:


Am I Real? contains a couple of revamped songs from the tour CD that I bought at Studio 80 last year. I hope to buy a copy of the new one whenever Nite Jewel returns to Holland. On it, Gonzalez collaborates with Cole M.G.N. (also guitarist in the wonderful Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti) and, on the title track, brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged of the similarly ’80s-inclined Teen Inc. The way things are going, I wouldn’t rule out a Toto collabo somewhere along the way, but for now you can listen to the current Nite Jewel record thanks to this handy widget:

Taking a ride with The-Dream

If you’ve got even the tiniest interest in R&B music, you have been on the lookout for The-Dream‘s new album Love King. It’s coming out in a week’s time but, you know, it leaked last night and there’s no use in pretending it hasn’t. The Prince-like highlight “Yamaha” is #nowplaying on 22tracks’ R&B playlist.

Terius Nash AKA The-Dream first came to prominence as the co-writer and producer on Rihanna’s 2007 worldwide smash “Umbrella“. He and musical partner Christopher “Tricky” Stewart have become a successful duo behind the scenes. Another tune of theirs you may know is Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)“. Parallel to his studio work for other people, the curiously hyphenated The-Dream has been steadily making a name for himself as a solo artist. His first two albums sold reasonably well in the US, gained glowing reviews, but didn’t spawn that breakthrough hit single. “Rockin’ That Sh**” (2008), so fas, has come closest:


Is The-Dream too chubby to be the new Usher, too old to be the new Chris Brown, too sensible to be the new R. Kelly? It’s hard to establish yourself as an R&B star based solely on your music but The-Dream seems to be carving out a niche for himself pretty well. It will be interesting to see if his critical acclaim and subcultural capital will push him through on Love King.

“Yamaha” is one of my favourite songs on the album. The Prince influence is obvious from the first beat. Compare, for instance, with the purple one’s “Little Red Corvette” (1982), and notice the same comparing-a-woman-to-a-vehicle analogy at work.


I guess The-Dream was eyeing a Japanse model.

Wiley and Hud Mo report to the dancefloor

One of the weirdest records around right now is “Electric Boogaloo (Hudson Mohawke Remix)” by UK rap supremo Wiley, #nowplaying on 22tracks’ electro playlist. I haven’t heard the original version yet (it’s not out until June 28), but I have a feeling that Hudson Mohawke has stretched it quite a bit. The Scottish producer has been associated with both dubstep (thanks to his Tweet refix, “Ooops!“) and, infamously, the grandiosely named aquacrunk scene. Last year’s wonderful Butter album established Hud Mo as one of Europe’s most adventurous producers—whatever you want to label his sound.

Wiley has found himself in a similar conundrum, about six years ago. “Wot Do U Call it?” was his hilarious response to the confusion surrounding his style of post-garage music. Eventually we settled on grime. And now all the grime stars are making electro-pop. Hudson Mohawke is looking ahead, starting off his Wiley remix vibin’ on an r&b groove that sounds like it’s about to launch into some Omni Trio style jungle, insteading opting for funky Carribean drums, moving back to the smooth r&b with Wiley rapping over a bunch of clapping 808s, before chipmunking him up to infinity.

Now, let’s practice our electric boogaloos!


Getting a bearing from Jamie Lidell’s Compass

If the guys from the soul playlist are paying attention, surely it won’t be long before Jamie Lidell‘s new album Compass is stretched over four 22tracks playlists. As it stands, “I Wanna Be Your Telephone” is #nowplaying at funk/jazz, “You Are Waking” has been playing on the rock playlist for a few weeks, while the title track, another album highlight, is #nowplaying on the pop playlist. Should DJs Full Crate and FS Green be reading this, I’d recommend “It’s a Kiss”.

If, like me, you have been following Jamie Lidell’s music since he debuted with Super_Collider in the late 1990s, you too were probably a little bit surprised by the turn his career took in the mid-2000s. I think even he himself was. Here’s the “old” Jamie Lidell, in a video from 1999:


It’s not that, until the release of “Multiply” (2005), Lidell’s talent as a singer was ever in any doubt. It’s that it had usually been shrouded in experimental, mostly electronic production not very fit for daytime programming. His one-man-shows, while nothing less than sensational, saw him tearing up the rulebook night after night.

A more conventional approach to arranging his songs widened Lidell’s audience big time, at least here in the Netherlands. Radio started playing his retro soul records. “Another Day” became an even bigger hit than “Multiply”. It’s a crossover that Lidell doesn’t seem to be aiming for anymore with Compass, though it may be his strongest collection of songs so far. The album is out next week, by the way.


I don’t think the big pop stations have been playing “Compass” or “The Ring” as yet. I can sort of see why. The singer/producer has allowed some of his experimental streak back into his music. To a longtime fan like me, that’s good news. “I Wanna Be Your Telephone” is a seriously tough piece of Prince-like funk, while the folky “Compass” manages to shed a stunning new light on the artist.

Whichever Jamie Lidell you liked best doesn’t matter anymore. I wouldn’t rule out Man!e playlisting “She Needs Me” on his R&B playlist sometime soon.


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