Joss Stone: Water for Your Soul

Think of it as the aural equivalent of a Lego set. One can use the simple bricks in different styles and colors to make something that stands out as special.

Water for Your Soul

Artist: Joss Stone
Label: S-Curve / Stone'd
US Release Date: 2015-07-24

Joss Stone has never hid her ambitions to conquer the globe. In her public statements and on her recordings, Stone’s persona has always been boastful and proud. She’s currently on a world tour in which she plans to visit 204 countries in three years. Stone is also taking on world music on her reggae-based new album, Water for Your Soul. The results are somewhat mixed. Sometimes the riddims set her free to pursue her muse in creative ways. Other times, the beats seem to slow her down when she should be frolicking harder. It varies from cut to cut, but on the whole Stone’s music provides a pleasant soundtrack for everyday living.

Ironically, the most laid-back tracks are the most invigorating, while the ones with the more strident melodies seem to drag. For example, the unhurried “Star” has a genial vibe enhanced by the sound of children’s voices. Stone offers cadences that move from a sing-song to martial beat in an affable manner as she declares her sense of self-worth. She never rushes the pace. She intones in different ways to let the song build in complexity. Think of it as the aural equivalent of a Lego set. One can use the simple bricks in different styles and colors to make something that stands out as special. Stone employs this trick on a number of fine songs, including the la la boom boom boom of “Molly Town”, the poppy “Love Me”, and the sultry “Stuck on You”. Stone lets the songs gather steam on their own power.

The mellowest track, “Sensimilla", takes on the topic of ganja. Stone doesn’t have much to say on the subject other than it sure feels good to partake of (“Sensimilla / sending me love”). Hey, this is reggae, what would one expect? Stone’s easy going sound here never gets loud enough to bum one out. However, that’s not true of all the material. “Harry’s Symphony” offers glimpses of violence and bad boys enough to disturb. “Cut the Line” describes what it means to be shut out against one’s will. The clarion hip-hop inflected “Wake Up” alerts one to the dangers of modern day life. Songs like this prevent the album from being too serene, but they do seem tangential to the main vibe.

Stone made her reputation as a rhythm and blues singer, and while R&B and reggae share the same radical roots, the two are quite different. Reggae allows Stone to get into a groove. When she goes with the flow, Stone offers smooth and rich vocals that suggest the promise of just chillin’ for its own sake. The problems of “Clean Water”, for example, imply that the answer is in our hands and it is beautiful. But when she prophesizes, as on “Way Oh”, the stronger beats weigh her down. Instead of being more soulful, she just sounds sore. Of course the world is full of problems, but she’s singing about “the beauty of love” here and Stone comes off as merely petulant.

Water for Your Soul is Stone’s seventh album and reveals her willingness to experiment and try new things. She may not be always successful, but risking failure allows her to grow. And Stone’s voice, always her greatest asset, is in fine form here. She never sounds like she has to reach for a note, which can be deceptive. Just try singing along and one will see how big a range she has. The new record will please longtime fans and reggae aficionados, but probably not win new admirers.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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