Jessie Ware, a singer hailing from South London, released her second album last October titled “Tough Love”. Would she have a sophomore slump after the success of her debut 2012 album “Devotion”, that debuted at #5 on the U.K. album charts and was nominated for a Mercury Prize? I can’t really say, because I haven’t really listened to her debut album but I do like her follow-up. Ware is a smooth soul-inspired singer who has been compared to Sade and Tracey Thorn. She started out as a background singer, but her vocal presence was powerful enough to warrant her going out on her own as a singer. After a number of track collaborations and guest appearances on other albums. By the time she released her debut album, she was a known commodity, hence the #5 spot the week it was released. Ware accomplished this despite having a single song chart in the top 40. On her second album, Ware collaborated with Ed Sheeran and Miguel, along with a handful of different producers. Some critics have said the material just isn’t as strong as on her first album, but she still sounds great on it. She has a great vocal presence, and the material on her recent album is definitely more subdued and subtle. There is some interesting production work on many of the tracks, but you have to pay attention because it’s not in your face at all. I’ll definitely need to check out her debut album and form my own opinion if one release stands out more than the other. It’s usually a good sign when I’m trying to pick from about half a dozen songs on what to include for samples.
“Attak (feat Danny Brown)”(explicit)follows “Up Down” on the album and they pair very well together. In fact “Up Down” has a long fade out to help set-up “Attak”. This track has a much more shrill synth sound that starts off with a lot of urgency. It matches Danny Brown’s style well though. Brown takes right off on the track, wasting no time to start spitting lines. Rustie uses some of the same technique he showcases on “Velcro” with stop/start percussion and a big bouncy synth sound. And some of his signature bass is bouncing all around this track. It will give your woofers a workout.
Up Down (feat D Double E) is another track that stood out from the first listen, even though it’s not the type of song I’d normally be drawn to. At first I resisted why I was drawn to it, and then realized why should I fight it? So what if the song is pointless, it’s fun. So what if the whole song is about what goes up must come down? D Double E does a great job repeating that mantra. Rustie provides some great beats to back him, waves of synths with what I like to think is a bird sound calling out from some distant rain forest mixed in. D Double E does a great job weaving his vocals around the sounds. And Rustie doesn’t let down with the bass on this song either, as soon as he drops it D Double E just takes off and runs with it. Great collaboration on this track.
“Velcro” immediately grabbed my attention the first time I heard it, even though it was buried in the second half of the album. The track starts off with some pingy synth sounds that bouncearound with some nice cymbal flourishes added in. This goes on for a little bit and then some percussion stops and starts before…the bass hits. And it hits hard. It’s a physical sound, you can feel it. Then it drops out while the synth picks up again, the percussion drops back in and sets up for a major bass drop. And that’s the main hook/chorus that this track is built around. Just over 3 minutes of some audio fun as this cycle repeats, with some changes thrown in throughout.
Rustie is a producer from the UK, whose real name is Russell Whyte. His style draws from hip hop and electro, with some whimsical elements. He’s signed to the Warp record label, and has worked on many re-mixes and compilation albums. His debut album “Glass Swords” came out in 2011 and received critical acclaim, landing on some year-end best of lists. He released his second album “Green Language” in 2014. Among its 13 tracks are a handful of collaborations, including one song with Danny Brown, who Rustie helped with a trio of songs on Brown’s excellent 2013 album “Old”. Rustie has some interesting sounds and beats throughout his album, and I’m going to highlight one of his instrumental tracks, along with two collaborations. I do want to preface that this music is best listened to on some nice headphonesor speakers if youreally want to appreciate the music. Rustie relies on a lot of bass and “texture” in his music, and that doesn’t translate well through lower quality audio headphones/speakers. I tried playing this album both on my little speaker/clock by my bed that has an iPhone/iPod connection, as well as a portable Bluetooth speaker and it did not translate well.