Music

Jessie Ware Returns to Form on 'What's Your Pleasure'

On What's Your Pleasure, Jessie Ware returns to where it all began, the dance floor.

What's Your Pleasure
Jessie Ware

What's Your Pleasure

26 June 2020

Jessie Ware's solo career began back in 2012 with her thrilling debut, Devotion. The album was an enormous success, thrusting Ware into the limelight and finding her a top place in many end-of-year lists and even end of decade round-ups. It is an effortlessly cool and exciting ode to love and fidelity. With a sensual sophistication Devotion put Ware on the map. Following her debut, Ware has been on a rollercoaster. Her second album, Tough Love, again did not bestow Ware with the same brilliance and acclaim of her first release. Now on her fourth album, Jessie Ware is returning to her debut and those very same successful sensibilities.

What's Your Pleasure is undoubtedly a return to form and a fearless reclaiming of the dance floor. The album oozes with Ware's calm sophistication and sensuality. Ware's approach to music-making is so effective. Her sensibilities and control are reminiscent of the Count Basie sound. Melodies and rhythm playing section slightly behind the beat -- giving a cool, relaxed swagger. Sparse, small melodies that patiently wait to hit you with their full range and dynamic extremity. The reserved nature of both Count Basie's and Jessie Ware's music gives a much more exciting and vivid intensity. They're the musical embodiment of the less is more argument we all so often quote.

A greater vibrancy is given to Ware's music through her use of vast and contrasting instrumentation. The album begins with "Spotlight", one of the five singles released in anticipation of the album. The track is a Jessie Ware down-tempo classic filled with soaring strings, 1980s synths, hip-shaking syncopation, UK Garage enthused beats and a casual effortlessness that is so alluring. As the album builds, so do they synths. The music becomes denser, enriched by each new synth timbre and layer. "Ooh La La" is Jessie Ware does disco. Brilliant syncopated synths, clicks, pops, and swooshes adorn this floor filler and make it blissfully infectious.

The strongest track on the album is "Save a Kiss". If you only listen to one song from this album, then this should be it. Earlier I wrote about Ware's great hill to climb to reclaim her early success, "Save a Kiss" does this and then some. Ware saved this single until last, the final amuse-bouche before the main meal. So much energy is created by the interplay between the arpeggiated synthesizers, sparse vocal melody, and string counter-melody. Yet, musically we feel subdued waiting at a besotted boiling point without any chance for release. The musical purgatory perfectly couples the lyrics of patience and longing. On "Save a Kiss", Jessie Ware crafts a perfect late-night down-tempo jam that could, with a few minor tweaks, be released by Robyn, Roisin Murphy, or rising talent, Amber Mark.

The evolving instrumentation on What's Your Pleasure comes full circle with the two closing tracks. The album began with shimmering strings and continued to evolve through a plethora of synthesizers and electronic instruments. In the penultimate track, "The Kill" the strings begin to come to the forefront again, as the arpeggiator fades, the synthesizers leave, and we return to the purely acoustic embellished by the newly introduced triumphant brass section. The progression is almost Dickensian acoustic to electronic to acoustic again. Finally, "Remember Where You Are" strips back all the dense electronic instrumentation and washes us clean. A purely acoustic arrangement now with soulful backing singers, a fuller and more prominent string section, electric bass replacing its synth counterpart. Soulfully Ware sounds reborn, strong, and empowered. This again is Jessie Ware showing her true class and full potential.

As much as Devotion remains Ware's Magnum Opus. What's Your Pleasure is a clear statement of intent, with a lot of quality. There are moments on this album where some songs are a little overlong and drawn out or times when the production clouds the overall delivery of the sentiment, the title track, for example. However, with her fourth album and after a somewhat tumultuous career, Jessie Ware is back in form. Dance floor, be warned.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.