Friday, February 13, 2009

Album Review: India.Arie - Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics (5/5)

India.Arie has had a string of enjoyable and inspiring first 3 albums, she's stayed consistent throughout her music since her debut back in 2001 with Acoustic Soul which found a confident India churning out silky R&B grooves on track songs like "Video", her debut single, which was a modern combination of modern R&B with a late 90s throwback. "Brown Skin" which oozed of an sultry urban groove, the album was brilliantly put together, upstaging her only worthy rival, soul singer Erykah Badu who put out Mama's Gun the previous year, which wasn't as contemporary as it should've been.

India's 2nd album Voyage To India released only a year after its predecessor, it's a true masterpiece, one of the few early millennium albums I still listen to allot today, unfortunately the album didn't have any singles that caught on at mainstream U.S. radio. but in this instance it didn't matter, the guitar backed "Talk To Her" and the smooth, horn influenced "Slow Down" were just some of the many highlights on the album.

Almost 4 years later India released the first of the Testimony trilogy, admittedly Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship was a weak follow up to Voyage To India, but it did manage to update her image and modern-up her sound the biggest hit from the album, the piano backed "I Am Not My Hair" with Akon is a brilliant example and it still did a good job at keeping up consistency.

Which bring us up to Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics - the second entry in the Testimony trilogy. In comparison to Vol. 1 this album isn't widely better as it uses the same urban-contemporary formula - but the album does have a more richer feel and it consists of more standouts than its predecessor, this is the first 5 star rating I've given an album since starting my blog which is a pretty good indication to how brilliant I think this album is.

The album gets off to a nostalgic start with the opening interlude "Grains" (their are 3 more interludes of the same name) a very sensual start to the album consisting of soaring vocal work and mellow chanting of: "I'm grateful that you created me from the same grains". It sets a mellow tone of the album. The opening song "Therapy" which was one of the few songs uploaded onto her official Myspace a couple weeks ago, so I've heard it many times. It's a very urban (and/or) pop contemporary fast paced, guitar backed track, it sounds very single worthy, brilliant song.

Making use of the guitar and incorporating a bit of spanish is "Ghetto" indulging in a mid-paced offering tied in with a very enticing chorus. Next up is "Chocolate High" with Muisiq SoulChild which serves as the lead single, another song I've been hearing for some time now. I love the melodic 70s vibe, a true standout, using typical a faint piano, chord changes and drums to make up the bulk of the song. "He Heals Me" is the first ballad that appears on the album, it's a beautiful guitar backed ballad with a beautiful tear worthy vocal performance from India.

The second interlude "Grains" is more lyrically powered than the first but still keeping the nostalgic, mellow feeling. "Pearls" is something new from India, it finds her using more of a higher vocal rather than her typical mid-range vocal. The song is another mellow guitar backed number, it smoothes out from the "Grains" interlude. Among my favorites on here is "River Rise" is a beautiful melodic piano based number almost gospel influenced but managing to keep up the contemporary side of things. The more cheery "Yellow" is breezy pop orientated track, it's one of my favorites but unfortunately it's the shortest song on the album. "Better Way" is the ultimate highlight on the album, I was very excited to listen to this in full after hearing the preview. The song is made up of a rhythmic handclap running through the song and backed with a sultry electronic guitar, it's a brilliant experiment.

After the third entry in the "Grains" interlude series, the album then moves into "Long Goodbye" is another experimental number, very Coldplay-esque, but more contemporary and melodic. Taking an extract from the Bible is "Plasms 23" which has a bouncy R&B feel. The same chapter from the Bible was used in Mariah Carey's closing track "I Wish You Well" in her most recent album E=MC2.

"The Cure" is a breezy, guitar backed number, not as strong as the previous tracks, but nevertheless a nice round up of the album. The last of the "Grains" interlude's mellows out to end the album. Love & Politics gets a 5 star rating because I love every single song on here and a 4.5 just doesn't sit right.

Best Tracks: Therapy, Chocolate High, River Rise, Yellow, Better Way


ww_adh said...

Interesting. India Irie is someone I've never listened to, but I know she's supposed to be really good. She got a lot of Grammy nominations for her 2001 work.

Ken said...

I totally love this album.