Teedra Moses: Complex Simplicity

Matt Cibula

Teedra Moses

Complex Simplicity

Label: TVT
US Release Date: 2004-08-10
UK Release Date: Available as import

I wasn't feeling this record until my homey Julianne Shepherd convinced me that it was genius. Now I think I like it better than she does. Anyway, it's awe-inspiring and cool and touching and kind of avant-garde in a weird homegrown way, and I can't recommend it enough. Let this serve as main notice of the same.

The first song is, I guess, the big single of 2004 that will never be. "Be Your Girl" uses a playground "nyah nyah"-style taunt as its main hook, and rather improbably weds a tale of a girl who's so shy that she can't meet this great guy to lyrics where said girl admits that she sometimes touches herself when thinking of great guy. I know the world is changing and I'm old and all that, but that isn't really shyness, okay? It shouldn't work, but it does, hard, all the way down to the core.

How does this song survive? Two ways. One, because Teedra Moses is a great songwriter and singer; the latter point is driven home with a mallet when all the many multitracked vocals kick in, both doo-wop and gangsta at the same time. She gets the soul-pop thang, which is inevitable, because she's from New Orleans. Two, because we are hearing the full, unfettered blast of a producer named Paul Poli. This dude is taking all the Philly lessons he can (Vidal Davis' work with Jill Scott, and Scott Storch's work with Jaguar Wright, and ?uestlove's work with everyone all come to mind) and combining it with smoothed-out TLC ATL-ness, and L.A. hot-pop, and Chi-style dusty-grooviness. And there's some more stuff here too. I'll mention it in a second.

This team is deceptively derivative, which is to say that songs first sound like other songs, and then you realize that they're completely their own thing. "Backstroke" could be by Mya, or Ashanti, or someone else the first time you hear it. She hates him, you see, but she loves the way he brings it -- ho hum, heard it, know it, made out to it last year. But then you hear it again and really listen to it and realize that this is some kind of symphony. We've got a Phil Spector scenario from the start: "Picture me in one of those two-seater things / Top down so thoughts of you are in the breeze / And the wind / And the wind / And the wind / Wind's in my hair". That's poetry, jack, don't even pretend it ain't. The production keeps her arguing with herself in many different ways, with many different touches, at many different emotional levels. This is all in the first two minutes. At 2:19, we get a big, emotional, 1970s mini-bridge that turns it epic. But it's all because there's something in dude's backstroke. Wow.

Lemme see. Other great new soul icons here include the title track, which is a plea for Zen enlightenment through drinking and dancing. If you think you've heard this before when it was called "1999", you're right -- but they know it and admit it in the big Linn drum hit every couple of bars. But it's also a plea for love, and a way of restating the same idea in Tim McGraw's big current hit about living like you're dying, and if that can be a hit, so can this. Plus, there's the great dropout, sounding like the whole studio's on mute for a few seconds, which reigns. Paul is messing with conventions like NYC protesters.

The same song exists in the form of "No More Tears", except it's about dealing with a relationship by getting high with one's friends, a notion I endorse highly. We also highly approve of "Caught Up", where she admits to a guy that she wants to be "wifey", which is just foolish enough that it could be real. And there's no way you won't cry hearing "I Think of You (Shirley's Song)", where she finally sings the song she was supposed to sing at her mother's funeral. Only one other artist can do a track like that, and her name is Missy Elliott.

Guest shots: "You'll Never Find (A Better Woman)", a Badu-esque "ghetto love affair" of a thug boyfriend's intransigence, is completely subverted by Jadakiss' guest rap about how, hey, she used to like it, she never turned down any money, who's talking about "breaking up", because he still loves her -- and then he subverts himself by admitting that he might be catting around after all! Also we get a guest production/duet deal with Raphael Saddiq, whose career SHOULD NOT BE IN THE CRAPPER when he can still bring pretty, lost-love acou-shtick like "Take Me".

And now we get to talk about the best guest on the thing: Lil Jon! Yeah! Okay! Actually, he doesn't say a word on "You Better Tell Her". He doesn't need to, because his track is so strong -- is this the first understated crunk classic? -- and because Moses does it all. Here's the song's scenario: our narratrix tells her partner that he needs to deal with the other woman who's talking about being with him, NOW, before she has to deal with it. She's not worried about whether or not the rumors about this other chick are true: she doesn't care, because all their property is in her name anyway. She's just mad because her rep is getting harshed out. She says "Daddy, I'm 2 cute 2 fight / You better get that bitch told tonight". Talk about complex simplicity! No way can you convince me that this won't be seen as an underappreciated classic in ten years… you just remember your Uncle Matt told you about it at the time.

I love this so much that it doesn't matter that it's three songs too long, and that those three songs are kinda boring ballads. I love it so much that I play it at work, and in the car, and on Sunday mornings making eggs for the children. It's a permanent part of the soundscape around here. Please don't sleep on Teedra Moses and Paul Poli. You won't be able to forgive yourself.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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