Music

Meshell Ndegeocello: Weather

Meshell's ninth studio album is a cool place filled with sexy, intelligent people.


Meshell Ndegeocello

Weather

Label: Naive
US Release Date: 2011-11-08
UK Release Date: 2011-11-07
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

You never know what type of world you’re going to be stepping into when you listen to a new Meshell Ndegeocello album. Those who have followed her career right from her 1993 masterpiece Plantation Lullabies (which is one of the most overlooked and underrated albums of the '90s), knows that Meshell rarely, if ever, repeats herself. In fact, this lack of repetition is sometimes so jarring that it's difficult to follow the path she took from one album to the next. See, for instance, the R&B/soul album Peace Beyond Passion and how it was followed by the super acoustic folk/pop album Bitter, and then how that was followed by the spoken-word hip-hop mixtape Cookie. It's head spinning. Even the spelling of her name has changed consistently for the first 10 years of her career.

On Weather, Meshell’s ninth studio album, she treads shockingly familiar musical terrain. Weather could easily be seen as the love child between 1999’s Bitter and 2009’s Devil’s Halo. It’s thick with melancholy acoustic strumming, hushed vocals, and suggestive rhythm sections. In many ways, Weather is a revisiting of Bitter, her most Lilith Fair-esque rendering. It scintillates with love and longing, but where Meshell was mourning the loss of a lover in 1999, here she’s celebrating it with a calmer force than she’s ever known.

After 18 years of making music, this is the direction that we wish so many of our favorite '90s darlings would tread -- maturing without betraying themselves; managing to contradict themselves in ways that are understandable and respectful of who they once were. Although there are still remnants of the cool bass slapping goddess that drew us to her on tracks like “Petite Mort”, “Dead End” and “Dirty World” (the latter having one of the best opening bass riffs ever), the majority of the album tends to steer clear of the jarring funk that’s characterized the ballast of Meshell’s sound, preferring instead to rely on soothing whispers and calming teases. As many have suggested, it’s an intimate album that is more concerned with pleasing the one you're with rather than satisfying your own hormonal urges.

The album opener, “Weather”, sets the pace and tone for the entire record -- a sultry and subtly playful love song. “Weather” isn’t clouded with the undertones of having a drug dependence to enjoy one’s sexuality (as was the case in many tunes from the psychedelic reggae album Comfort Woman). Instead, it relies on realism, sobriety and passion. There is a new-ound sophistication in Meshell’s desire that permeates throughout this album that was absent in many previous efforts. On “Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”, which begins with a toned down, but characteristic, augmented string section, she sings “You broke my heart / I was just one in a million / Who thinks the hey day was their day / Tragically longing for the past / I think about you every day / While I loiter on your doorstep / To memories, I say, ‘I’ve had enough’, or ‘I tried’.”

The yearning, the drive, and the passion is much less intense and dramatic than it has been in the past for Meshell. What they are now is focused, mature, and level-headed. The desire is there, but it doesn’t crackle with the self-indulgence of a teenager. It’s more committed, honest, and at times selfless. Take for instance the piano ballad “Oyster” where Meshell sings “Somebody wishing on a shooting star / shooting star stream across the sky / You know it’s just a meteor, right? / People throwing pennies in a wishing well / Wishing well’s gonna run dry / But I ain’t going to leave you tonight / Everybody talkin’ ‘bout changin’ the world / The world ain’t ever gonna change / But you can always change in front of me / I’ll shuck all the oysters and you can keep the pearl / I do my shucking and my jiving for free / Free, like walking down the beach at night.” There’s an astute insight that Meshell manages to grasp onto which eludes so many lesser singer/songwriters.

Weather presents a vastly sophisticated and mature songwriter who has managed to put aside her need to stand on that soap box and declare her political and social ideals. Although that particular Meshell was über-cool, what we are now witnessing is the maturation of a gifted musician who, instead of turning her music into money-grabbing schmaltz like so many other mom-rockers, is offering hushed insightful reverence in the form of laid back cool music. Meshell has mentioned that when she was younger, voicing her concerns about the social and political ills of the world was a significant part of her identity, but in age she’s learned that she can still hold true to those ideals without needing to convert the masses or declare her outrage with such urgency. She’s living a quiet little life on her own little island where they play cool music, and everyone is really awesome.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image