Frank Ocean – Blonde review

Frank Ocean - Blonde promo art 1 (1200x675)The curse of the difficult-second-album hangs over Frank Ocean’s Blonde like an unforgiving spectre. As if following up his critically acclaimed debut, Channel Orange, wasn’t hard enough already: there was the endless rumours, the delays and the never-ending storm of desire and derision on social media. No wonder Ocean prefers to keep himself to himself these days.

For better and worse, Ocean’s second album is the product of personal struggle under the weight of intense expectation. It doesn’t reach the dizzying perfection of his 2012 debut, but it is a profound listen nonetheless. Continue reading

Alicia Keys – Here review

Alicia Keys 2016 (Mar) press photo (1431x805)Alicia Keys’ sixth album, Here, is an unexpected masterwork. Quite unlike her previous release, Girl on Fire, it is an album infused with rhythm, creativity and purpose not heard since her earliest albums. And it’s also one of this year’s must-hear releases. Continue reading

Lion Babe – Begin review

Lion Babe - press photo 2015, 3, by Misha Taylor (1920x1080)In the words of director and artist Simon Frederick: “Black is the new black”. And few things this year have brought delight, joy and open-mouthed awe to me than the sight of black sisters rocking natural curls with pride. Alicia Keys, Solange, Corinne Bailey Rae, Fleur East, Nao and Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, to name but a few of the music world’s natural hair heroes.

But what has hair got to do with music – and Lion Babe specifically? More than you’d think. Hair is an express of the self. And anyone who knows what it’s like maintaining an afro, day in, day out, will tell you that – just ask Erykah Badu, India.Arie or Solange. Jillian Hervey, Lion Babe’s majestic frontwoman, wears a mane of golden curls that look as though they were a gift from the goddess Oshun herself.

Hervey’s natural hair journey – as well as the fact she is the daughter of singer and actress, Vanessa Williams – brought her face to face with taunts, teases and pressure for her to conform to her attacker’s standards of beauty. But, as she told Glamour magazine earlier this year, returning to natural hair led her to feel “very comfortable in my skin and really confident about who I was”. The Lion Babe of today could not exist without this comfortable, confident brown-skinned wonder woman. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Kehlani – Advice

Kehlani - Advice (1000x562)When it comes to self-defence, Oakland-born R&B rebel Kehlani sounds like she could give an army of assailants a butt-whoopin’ they won’t soon forget. She’s a tough-talking-rough-riding-Michelle-Rodriguez kind of woman, or at least that’s the impression you get from her music and colourful body tatts. Continue reading

Jorja Smith – Project 11 EP review

Jorja Smith, Afropunk London 2016, Ally Pally, by Aaron Lee (960x540)The confidence that resonates from Jorja Smith quickly leaves you defenceless. She’s an 18-year-old going on 28, singing about urban life, young love and society’s uncomfortable injustices.

Propelled by the response to ‘Blue Lights’, a short tale of a young person walking unwelcome streets, which garnered much acclaim for her at the start of the year, Smith has apparently received plenty of offers from major labels, but has so far declined them all. She prefers do her own thing. The strength of her first EP, Project 11, is good reason for this rising talent to continue being an independent woman. Continue reading

Marie Dahlstrom – 0.0 EP review

Marie Dahlstrom press photo 2016, 1 (1280x720)Nowadays, it’s not difficult to make something that passes for a love song. But to create something that people actually connect with, and some feel sums up their feelings for somebody, now that still takes talent. Scandinavian singer and pianist Marie Dahlstrom has won the hearts of many around the world thanks to her skill at crafting patient, sincere-sounding love songs. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Marie Dahlstrom – Mine

Marie Dahlstrom - Mine single (500x281)Marie Dahlstrom, the Danish singer now living in London, captured my attention in late 2014 when I discovered her album, The Renditions, on Bandcamp.

Since then, she’s been gradually releasing music as one half of Hans Island and independently. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Rachel Foxx – Make You Say

Rachel Foxx, 2016 press photo, by Kiran Gidda (1000x562)From Hackney, east London, comes the intoxicating tones of Rachel Foxx. Ms Foxx has released a self-titled EP in 2014, which has been hotly-received by SoundCloud listeners. She came to my attention last year with the transfixing ‘Pink and Green’. Continue reading