Friday, 31 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #1: The ArchAndroid

#1: 'The ArchAndroid' by Janelle Monae

I have always been a soul kid at heart, so it's no surprise that a form of modern soul (fused with R&B, funk and indie) has taken the top spot on my personal countdown for 2010. Janelle Monae has been creeping her way into the industry for a few years now, collaborating with the likes of Outkast and signing to Bad Boy Records in 2006. She released a mini-album, 'Metropolis: Suite One', in 2007 which set the basis for her unique blend of genre conventions, the soul burning at the heart of her sound and the sci-fi themes that make me absolutely, positively want to marry her.

Sci-fi and music often make me go slightly gaga and may explain my obsession with all things Bowie, so when this album appeared in my life, I knew it would settle into my heart and never leave. 'The ArchAndroid' is a concept album about an android named Cindi Mayweather, sent back in time to free the citizens of a city called Metropolis, looking to bring back love to the suppressed people minority. Overtures are seldom used in modern music but Miss Monae opens the album with a dramatic orchestral flourish, bringing in cinematic, historical and visual ties alongside everything else on offer. Janelle is a master of crafting a tale and presenting it with a hundred other influences at the back of your mind, whilst producing something wholly unique, original and outstanding.

Outkast style hip-hop bursts into life on the likes of 'Dance or Die' with Big Boi himself even appearing on breakout single 'Tightrope' (the video of which showcases the jawdropping movement and grace in the choreography of our titular innovator). R&B that showcases a voice with the breadth and depth of Mary J Blige is a recurring tone, with 90s beats and nu-soul soundbites on the likes of 'Locked Inside' and 'Neon Valley Street'. Even indie rock pushes its way through the fold with Of Montreal (who Janelle supported on tour) cracking their way into the funk-laden 'Make The Bus'. Superbly strange sound manipulation is used with a deft hand in the backmasking of 'Neon Gumbo' and the echoing spiralling rock of 'Mushrooms and Roses'.

'Cold War' is the most incisive and personal track on offer, providing a profound and thrilling journey into her mind, taking on the issues surrounding roles of minoritiesm, specifically females, in society and in the music world. The music video (watch it below) is a stunning depiction of individual emotion with the camera focusing on the beautiful face of Miss Monae as she sings her heart out, recalling the famed Sinead O Connor video, especially as a tear streaks down her face at the line 'I was made to believe there's something wrong with me...'

One of the last tracks on the album, 'Say You'll Go' is a slow and steady electronic-tinged melody with Janelle's carefully controlled vocals lamenting drifting alongside, reminiscient of a Stevie Wonder ballad from his peak in the 70s. To top it all of, the track breaks down into my favourite piece of classical music, 'Clair De Lune' from the 3rd movement of Suite Bergamasque by Claude Debussy, cementing her as the love of my life and 'The ArchAndroid' as the most beautiful, beguiling and groundbreaking records of 2010.

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