Emmanuel Elone: “Black Leather” is a pretty good song. Kat Von D’s vocals are beautiful, and compliments the great rhythm flowing below her. Her singing feels even more powerful on the chorus, where her vocals are either stacked, or she has backup singers that improve Von D’s performance. Lyrically, “Black Leather” isn’t a slouch either, with lines that are simple, poetic, and put together well. “Black Leather” may not blow you away, but it is a good listen nonetheless. [6/10]
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Pryor Stroud: Laura Mvula sings in concentrated whirlwinds of sorrows and dreamscapes and untempered howls of poetic revelation, a fact that is never more present than in the rushing-through-the-bloodstream chorus of “Phenomenal Woman.” It’s a chorus that seems to knock the air out of your lungs, only for you to realize that it is Mvula who is belting toward breathlessness, not you. But her artistry seeps through the track as a whole. The production is a rich nu-soul mosaic of hopscotch R&B and Janelle Monáe-esque afrofuturist funk, and the verse showcases Mvula’s vocal versatility. In short, “Phenomenal Woman” should increase anticipation for The Dreaming Room tenfold. [9/10]
Kansas trio Moreland & Arbuckle plays a smokin’ bluesy brand of roots rock that’s so hot it could burn the house down. Harmonica lines intertwine between gloriously visceral guitar lead parts and everything is underpinned by a heavy rocking beat. This stellar band has a new album on tap releasing on May 6th, Promised Land Or Bust, their first for influential Chicago blues label Alligator Records. “Mean and Evil”, the record’s first single, will have you chasing down this release, which Dustin Arbuckle says is their best yet. Moreland & Arbuckle bring it on every album, but Promised Land Or Bust does indeed up the ante for one of America’s finest blues groups.
Pryor Stroud: Egyptian Lover was a perpetual staple of the L.A. dance scene in the early and mid-‘80s, and “I Cry (Night After Night)” demonstrates why he captured this subcultural imagination with such force. Gilded with a twirling, nocturnal synth-bass motif and vocoded back-up singers, the whole track smacks of the multi-genre pop savvy and creative eccentricity of Prince, yet still emphatically radiates the uniqueness of Egyptian Lover’s personal aesthetic. He asks you, just as Prince once did, to dig a picture that he paints before you: he is the lover from “When Doves Cry”—“How can you just leave me standing / Alone in a world that’s so cold?”—but this lover now walks the desolate streets of this world without direction, a world that is ice-cold solely for him, and cries endlessly for a lover that isn’t there, his teardrops now rivulets of ice on his cheeks. [7/10]