Tag Archive: Erykah Badu


Welcome to the first proper post of 2017. Some people reading the blog last year may have noticed that I tried to review more music by women, in fact I was trying to strike a 50-50 balance between the music I reviewed that was by men and music that I reviewed that was by women. I managed to get that balance. This year and beyond I want to try and achieve that balance in my own music collection. I know that I may never reach a 50-50 split as there are just less women making music but I feel like I manage to balance these things in the rest of my life (films, T.V. podcasts etc.) While the music industry seems uninterested in pushing women to the forefront of music (other than pop music). I personally love and respect women both in general and in terms of artistic expression especially in music but feel that my music collection doesn’t necessarily reflect it enough. So I want to tackle this lack of balance in my own collection and hope we can all spread this positive message far and wide.

I’ve come across lots of talented artists/bands/producers but I’ve decided to ask for some recommendations as female bands/artists/producers struggle to gain the same amount of attention as their male peers. To help with the recommendations process I have created a list of music that I own by/or featuring women. I hope that this list gives you an idea of my taste and avoids people recommending artists or releases that I already own. I’ve also included a list of priority purchases so you know what I’ve got in mind to buy in the future. I’d buy them all but my benefit won’t allow for that and I will still buy some music by men as this is about striking a balance rather than cutting something out completely. .

I’ve set up a new Twitter account, @HerSonicFiction, where I’ll share what female artists I’m listening to now. Feel free to Tweet your recommendations at me or put them in the comments below. If we can all use #HerSonicFiction then we can introduce each other to some great female artists and encourage even more people to listen to and buy music by women.

Albums I already own

Kate Bush – “Hounds of Love”

Elza Soares – “Woman at the End of the World”

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – “Man Alive”

Lindstrom & Christabelle – “Real Life is no Cool”

Solange – “A Seat at the Table” & “True”

Aretha Franklin – “The Very Best Of”, “Amazing Grace” & “Lady Soul”

The Staple Singers – “Be Altitude: Respect Yourself”

The Slits – “Cut”

Erase Errata – “At Crystal Palace”

M.I.A – “Arular” & “Kala”

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis”, “Tragedy” & “Loud City Song”

Deerhoof – “Offend Maggie” & “Breakup Song”

Stereolab – “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” & “Mars Audiac Quartet”

Colleen – “Captain of None”

Bjork – “Post” & “Medulla”

Erykah Badu – “New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War”

Neneh Cherry & The Thing – “The Cherry Thing”

Junglepussy – “Pregnant with Succcess”

Suzanne Ciani – “Lixiviation 1969-1985”

Kelis – “Tasty” & “Kaleidoscope”

Ikara Colt – “Chat and Business”

Janelle Monae – “The Archandroid” & “The Electric Lady”

New Order – “Technique”

Pixies – “Come On Pilgrim”, “Surfer Rosa” & “Doolittle”

Thee Satisfaction – “Awe Naturale”, Transitions”, “THEESatisfaction Loves Erykah Badu”, “Snow Motion” & “EarthEE”

Sleigh Bells – “Treats”

Patti Smith – “Horses”

Solex “Solex vs Hitmeister”

The Raincoats – “The Raincoats”, “Odyshape” & “The Kitchen Tapes”

Talking Heads – “Talking Heads ’77”, “More Songs About Buildings & Food”, “Fear of Music” & “Remain in Light”

Tom Tom Club – “Tom Tom Club”

Tamikrest – “Chatma”

Tune-Yards – “Nikki Nack” & “Who Kill”

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Fever to Tell”, “Show Your Bones”, “Its Blitz” & “Mosquito”

Jamila Woods – “Heavn”

NoName – “Telefone”

female-pressure – Various Artists – “Music- Awareness & Solidarity w- Rojava Revolution”

Priority purchases:

more Kate Bush – suggestions very welcome

Lauryn Hill – “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”

Missy Elliott – “Miss E…So Addictive” & “Under Construction”

FKA Twigs – “LP1”

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “EARS”

Dawn Richard – “Redemption”

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Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are eight brass playing brothers (and an unrelated drummer) from Chicago who are all the sons the jazz music legend Kelan Phillip Cohran who played in the original line-up of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the 1950’s. The band grew up practicing their instruments from 6am every morning as children, when they reached their teens they all got into hip-hop spending their nights secretly listening to their new heroes Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and NWA. Eventually these two musical genres would be combined by the brothers when they decided to making a living busking in Chicago. Having honed their sound they moved to New York and soon caused a stir with the mesmerising live performances, which lead to performing alongside Mos Def and Erykah Badu. The songs played as part of those live sets became their self-titled debut album released in 2009, swiftly followed by guest appearances on ‘Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach’ and ‘Sweepstakes’ by Gorillaz. The band then went on the Gorillaz and their own world tour, emerging with two new releases in 2012, one a collaborative album with Cohran, the other a mini album called ‘Bulletproof Brass’.

All through their career to date Hypnotic Brass Ensemble have combined multiple musical genres and always experimented within said genres, ‘Fly’ is no different in this respect throwing guitars, synths, rapping, sung vocals and Latin drums and percussion into the mix. The album opens with ‘P.O.T.A.’, there’s a quick drum roll that brings in a parping horn riff that plays counterpoint to an ascending horn melody, it’s all underpinned with a head nodding hip-hop beat. Around two minutes in the trumpet breaks away from the other instruments to play an expressive solo, it provides a nice contrast to the mournful and strict parts of the track that preceded it. Next up is ‘Rebel Rousin’ which opens with a staccato horn riff playing over the slippery minimal bass line and drum break, a trumpet plays a staccato solo over the top.  There’s a great build up that reminds me of ‘Jungle Boogie’ by Kool and the Gang. The title track is the first of the three vocal tracks on album and features Aquilla Sadallah, it kicks off with a drum break put through a cool reverb, a Latin sounding trumpet riff and ‘la la la’ backing vocals. Then Sadallah drops in for his first rap verse which gives way to the laidback and smooth vocal lead chorus.

Next up its ‘Baggae Claim’ with its combination of hard head nodding beat, lilting rhythm guitar and bright interweaving brass riffs that up the track. Then the guitar falls away and the drums, sousaphone bass line and a staccato trumpet riff take over. There’s a little change up on the brass and the original section kicks in again. The saxophone takes a solo over the sousaphone, drums and guitar around one minute in. It’s a great example of how the band mix up hard and light sounds to stunning effect. ‘Navigator’ utilises a blunt beat and deep minimal sub bass to back the sharp attack of the brass section, then things back down to an 8 bit synth riff and deep voiced rap verse that are a complete stylistic change for the band. Next up is Exchange Rate’ that opens with a spoken word sample over subdued trumpet, then the rest of the brass section and beat drop in. All the instruments drop except drums, piano and a guitar which plays a solo. The brass returns with the sax playing its own solo.  It’s another departure for the band that hadn’t used guitar or piano on any of their track before this album. ‘Favela Funk’ is the second of the two Latin influenced tracks (the other one being ‘Fly’) and combines a fast percussion pattern play behind spritely trumpet and trombone riffs another trumpet solos over the top.

The addition of the Latin rhythms to the band’s sound works as they’re previous work suggested and the same can be said of adding the raps to their hip-hop influenced tracks. However, I’m totally convinced that the rappers and rapping feature on this album always gels well with the band’s tracks and though ‘Navigator’ would have been a solid track on many a hip-hop album the band don’t quite pull off the electronic organic hybrid. Despite these missteps “Fly” is an excellent addition to an impressive back catalogue.

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“The Electric Lady” is Janelle Monae’s much anticipated follow-up to her delightfully insane and eclectic debut album “The Archandroid” (2010), which featured in my Top 20 Albums of the Year 2010 on this blog. The new doesn’t disappoint mixing up a whole range of musical genres across its nineteen tracks and continuing to explore Monae’s dystopian future where she plays the character of cyborg Cindi Merryweather. The main differences between the two albums is that on “The Electric Lady” there’s a romantic subplot and Monae has a few attempts at her own take on modern R&B a genre she’s expressed much frustration with in the past.

The album opens as “The Archandroid” did with a classical suite called ‘Suite IV Electric Overture’ which features twanging tremolo guitar, slow yet purposeful strings and a low slung head nodding, thin fuzz guitar and a heavenly choir. Around 1 minute 30 seconds in there a flourish of strings that leads into… ‘Give ‘Em What They Love’ featuring Prince. In fact, Prince is the most appropriate musical reference for this track with its slick funk rock guitar and thumping minimal beat. In the chorus a shuffling acoustic guitar enters adding to the slinky groove. In verse two Prince sing falsetto over his own perfectly poised guitar melody. There’s also a great guitar solo by Prince halfway through the song but Monae is the Purple One’s equal and is never in his shadow. Next up is the album’s first single ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ featuring Erykah Badu, the track kicks off with a funky guitar riff and subby bass drum and subtle tambourine groove. Then some P-Funk synth swiggles drop in before everything gets extra funky in the chorus. The track reminds of Thee Satisfaction albeit with major label production. Monae’s first attempt at a straight R&B is ‘Electric Lady’ featuring Solange. It opens with staccato vocals and fuzz guitar solo before the main head nodding funky beat and bass line drop and Monae and Solange’s vocals interweave creating harmonic heaven, later they create some fantastic melodies together too. The beat and bass line reminds me a lot of Solange’s tracks on her own ‘True’ EP and Monae has praised her as one of only artists pushing R&B forward. ‘Primetime’ featuring Miguel is another attempt at R&B this time Monae trys her hand at a ballad. In the intro Miguel adlibs over his own vocal distant vocal harmonies and a beat thumps and echoes out. Monae pushes the boat out vocally for the chorus before a cool fuzz guitar solo kicks. Things drop down again for Miguel’s first verse proper. Despite the cheesy lyrics, sounds and guitar solos, I really like this R&B and I don’t like R&B ballads.

‘Dance Apocalyptic’ is a fantastic pop song that combines acoustic rhythm guitar, upbeat drums and great claps. It strongly recalls ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast, which is no bad thing. ‘Look Into My Eyes’, ‘Victory’ and ‘Can’t Live Without Your Love’ show that Monae can deliver emotive vocals, something that she’s been accused of lacking in the past. Meanwhile, ‘It’s Code’ and ‘Ghetto Woman’ add to the album funk quota the former combing flanged wah-wah guitars and thick bass with subtle yet bouncy drums and some nice twinkling vibraphone melody. I love the synth swiggles in the chorus. The later continues with the synth swiggles and pumping synth bass, recalls Stevie Wonder in his 70s prime.

The only real misstep on the album (apart the interludes which add nothing to the album musically or thematically) is the closing track ‘What An Experience’ with its 80’s style synth stabs and hip-hop drums come across as cheesy where the aim was for something emotive. However, this a minor complaint on an exceptional album that equals Monae’s debut in terms of both ambition and great tunes. You need “The Electric Lady” in your life.

Though April was thin on the ground in terms of new releases and reissues, I still managed to discover and enjoy a large range of music.

First up were two March releases. The first from Erykah Badu was ‘New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)’ the second in her trilogy of New Amerykah albums. The first is the excellent ‘New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)’ from 2008, which focused on politics, war and ghetto violence but for Part Two, Badu switches to discuss love in all its forms. At first this extreme left turn makes the album feel too slight but it is a fully formed, ambitious work of depth that will reward amply for those who give it time.

Next is Mulatu Astatke’s new release ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’ which sees the founder of Ethio-jazz do himself proud with an album of subtle, slow burning grooves that centre on the downbeat tracks he explored on ‘Inspiration Information Vol.3’ with The Heliocentrics.

Noise was the genre that ran through the month with new efforts from Nice Nice and Growing. The former’s ‘Extra Wow’ (their first on Warp Records) is propelled by the motorik rhythms associated with early Kraftwerk and Neu! but far from being plagiaristic the band uses them as a springboard for developing their own sound. I was impressed with ‘Extra Wow’ and how everything just clicked into place after finding their initial singles underwhelming. Growing have long been an established feature on the noise scene since they formed in 2001, developing from a wispy ambient drone-based sound to creating walls of harmonically and rhythmically complex noise that emanates from their banks of analogue equipment. Latest album ‘Pumps’ adds new member Sadie Laska on vocals and drum machine rhythms are included for the first time. ‘Pumps’ has some great tunes yet feels like a transitional album, though it prompted me to investigate their previous works like ‘Vision Swim’, mini album ‘Lateral’ and ‘All the Way’.  The detailed harmonic waves of sound, dense rhythms created without drums blew my away and fortunately weren’t the headache-creating treble fests I had anticipated.

I also caught up with Caribou by buying his new album ‘Swim’ and my favourite ‘The Milk of Human Kindness’. Both are brilliant examples of modern psychedelia. I won’t go into too much detail about Caribou now as later this month I will be discussing him in the follow-up to the Psychedelia: The Return piece published in February. In a similar vein I picked up on a newcomer called Toro Y Moi who is Chaz Brunwick, a South Carolina based producer. His debut album ‘Causes of This’ is rightly being praised. Though he is being grouped with glo-fi/chillwave artists such as Washed Out and Neon Indian, and there are hints of this in the music, it reminded me of Animal Collective and Four Tet’s early 2000s era.

I finished April by buying Norwegian cosmic disco producer Prins Thomas’ self titled debut album, The Fall’s ‘Post-TLC Reformation!’ from 2007, which I found underwhelming (though almost all Fall albums are grower and/or have enough moments to justify having them) , and ‘Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in 70s Ghana’. I also listened to a highly recommended ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’, The Fall’s new album, the HEALTH single ‘USA Boys’ and MIA’s new song ‘Born Free’. Unfortunately it and the accompanying video’s true subject have been overshadowed by the misperceptions about the video’s metaphor and the controversy surrounding the violence.

Watch the ‘Born Free video below:

http://vimeo.com/11219730

I would love to hear what people who visit Sonic Fiction think of it. Any ideas on how I can improve the content are welcome. Critiques and debate are what I want Sonic Fiction to be about.

Spotify playlist (HTTP link, then Spotify link):

April 2010 playlist

April 2010 playlist

Recommendations for May (potential the best month of year…so far):

Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’  (Warp) 3rd May

Black Dog – ‘Music for Real Airports’ (Soma) 10th May

Foals – ‘Total Life Forever’ (Transgressive) 10th May

Holy Fuck – ‘Latin’ (Young Turks) 10th May

Walls – ‘Walls’ (Kompact) 10th May

Ellen Allien – ‘Dust’ (Bpitch Control) 17th May

Konono No.1 – ‘Assume Crash Position’ (Crammed Discs) 17th May

LCD Soundsystem – ‘This Is Happening’ (DFA/EMI) 17th May

Jamie Lidell – ‘Compass’ (Warp) 17th May

Crystal Castles – ‘Crystal Castles (2)’ (Polydor) 24th May

Effi Briest – ‘Rhizomes’ (Blast First Petite) 24th May

plus a couple that slipped me by:

David Holmes -‘The Dogs Are Parading – The Very Best Of’

Solex + Jon Spencer + Cristina Martinez – ‘Amsterdam Showdown, King Street Throwdown’

February continued where January left off only upping the ante of quality releases.

Hot Chip proved yet again to be masters of studio and stage when they delivered their new album ‘One Life Stand’, which has been rightly hailed as their most consistent effort to date and features too many catchy tunes to count. Watching them perform at Leeds Academy I could see they had continued to exponentially improve their already impressive live shows. Hot Chip demonstrated they have gained the confidence to exhibit, without arrogance, a combination of songcraft, dynamics, performance and adaptation that hit the highest levels possible.

I also invested in a Rough Trade exclusive version of the Lindstrom and Christabelle album ‘Real Life is No Cool’, as mentioned in January’s post, and was delighted with the package that also included a second disc of six remixes and a third featuring Lindstrom’s (slightly over long and repetitive) version of the carol ‘Little Drummer Boy’. These New Puritans’ album is another essential purchase and has forced me to reassess this band and I will be revisiting their debut ‘Beat Pyramid’ on Spotify soon. I continued my spending spree on new music with Zombie Zombie member Etienne Jaumet’s album ‘Night Music’, which is a brilliant distillation of techno, krautrock and horror film music that spooks and thrills in equal measure.

I also caught up with couple of release from last year. The first being Mos Def’s ‘The Ecstatic’ which deserved a place on my ‘albums of 2009’ list. Though, like all of his albums, it has a New York feel, the key difference here is that it traverses from Bollywood to Nigeria and finds Mos eschewing his wordy rapping and long tangents for short, sharp bursts of sound. The second of these releases was ‘Inspiration Information Vol.3’ by Mulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics, a combination of Astatke’s own genre Ethio-jazz (a fusion of jazz and traditional Ethiopian melodies and harmonies) and The Heliocentric’s blaxploitation style of funk. This is must for fans of African music, The Herbaliser and The Cinematic Orchestra. Astatke’s new album ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’ is out on 29th March and features The Heliocentrics as guests. The quality present on ‘Inspiration Information Vol.3’ is at such high level, it’s another big recommendation.

Finally I rounded off the month with a couple of classic krautrock reissues in the form of Can’s ‘Tago Mago’, an incredible double album that veers from taut funk inspired rock to paranoid synths scapes over its duration. The other was ‘Pheadra’ by Tangerine Dream. An album that many credit as a major inspiration for ambient music and modern dance music producers including Lindstrom and Prins Thomas.

This months Spotify playlist:

February 2010 playlist

February 2010 playlist

To check out in March:

Errors – ‘Come Down with Me’ 1st March

Tuung – ‘And then we saw Land’  1st March

Gonjasufi – ‘A Sufi and a Killer’ 8th March

Gorillaz – ‘Plastic Beach’ 8thMarch

Liars – ‘Sisterworld’ 8th March

The Knife – ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ 8th March

Madlib – ‘Medicine Show Vol.3: Beat Konducta in Africa’ 22nd March

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh 29th March

Mulatu Astatke – ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’ 29th March

Method Man/Ghostface/Raekwaon – ‘Wu Massacre’ 29th March.

Also plenty of posts to look forward to on this blog. I’ll be covering hip-hop culture, non-musicians and a new regular feature re-evaluating classic and cult albums of the past.

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