Album Reviews

Erykah Badu NEW AMERYKAH PART TWO (RETURN OF THE ANKH) [Motown] Fourth Lineg


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Justin examines a few tracks from Erykah Badu's latest album.

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With a supporting cast featuring beat gurus Madlib and the late J Dilla, it should come naturally that Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), the follow-up to 2008's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), is sprinkled with the sounds of crackling vinyl and eccentric Moog quirks.

Departing from the digital aesthetic of her last album, Badu embraces a sonic warmth that lends itself to sample-based, analog hip-hop. Although tracks include swelling beats and pulsating funk textures, the album reads more as a compilation of beats that Badu sings over as opposed to songs in the neo-soul genre. Not that there's anything faulty in that choice, but it indicates that Badu pools epsecially from her hip-hop roots in this new release.

Forget complex harmonic structures-this album is an expressionistic portrait of mood and feeling, and Badu hits the mark with her own wild imprint. The repetetive quality and lengthy songs (at least six near or surpass the five-minute mark) at first seem excessive, but giving the album a second listen reveals an important afterthought: This was intentional on Badu's part, not just a way to fill up space on the CD. Her thematic content hinges on love, and Badu offers a type of healing method for love's wounds through replay and revistiation of sounds.

Make sure to catch Badu's ethereal swoons over Theremin chirps and harp-playing on "Incense", or skip to "Love" for a hypnotic, amorous incantation over a phat Dilla beat. Although noted for her artistic quirkiness, Badu produces tracks that are accesible to even the most snobbish beat junkies.

-Justin Bolois

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