First LP from Jamila Woods, whose influences include Toni Morrison and Kendrick Lamar. After providing vocals for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Chance the Rapper (who features on HEAVN), Woods’ voice on her own debut maintains enthralling sweetness while losing none of the force of her intelligent political observations. Extremely listenable protest record. Available on indies-only coloured vinyl.
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Having previously found her way into public consciousness through performances on tunes by the esteemed optimist Chance along with, uh, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, it’s now debut time for singer and songwriter Jamila Woods. On ‘Heavn’ she delivers a soul filibuster, twenty songs long and plenty themes dense. It’s a gyroscope of the personal and political, spinning between Jamila Woods’ experiences of “family, the city of Chicago, self care, and the black women she calls friends”. And it sounds non-stop gorgeous.
Woods makes this record feel spacious and claustrophobic all at once, clearing out her spot but letting gripping moments of anxiety take hold in its sound. The beat on “Lonely” is sparse and relaxed, a woozy vibe in the waiting for a song that eventually doubles its voices and flourishes and brings in a heartbreaking nod to the theme tune from Dawson’s Creek. It’s a wonderfully inventive moment that makes a universal trope sound personal and isolated -- coupled with Woods’ admission that “I’ll be crazy on my own”, it speaks relatably to a modern world where we vent to nobody before we can bring ourselves to talk to anyone.
For a record of harsh revelations and personal admissions, this record glistens. It’s never anything but accessible, from the smooth keys of the record’s title track to the fret-sliding guitar of “In My Name”. Along with being rather crystalline, Woods’ pop music is precise and stoical, never getting all that weird over its various hues. She spans the righteous bombast of “Blk Girl Soldier” and the low-key R&B of the Chance-bolstered “LSD” without blinking; she matches low-key with indignation like they’re two equally good cards in a perfect hand, because they are. It's actually a good thing that this record is twenty tunes long, because it's endlessly listenable.
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- HEAVN by Jamila Woods
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