Review : Meshell Ndegeocello - Weather
GuardianThe 10th album from Meshell Ndegéocello feels like cocooning yourself in a hotel with a lover for a week: deeply intimate, wholly engrossing. On the title track, half plea and half seduction, she elides domesticity with subtle eroticism; by La Petite Mort, she's murmuring "Who's your daddy?" in her deep husk of a voice – perfectly framed throughout the album by gently sensual arrangements of warm piano chords and tactile brushed drums. The outside world, when Ndegéocello deigns to notice it, gets short shrift: "Kick and scream and watch it burn," she observes with disgust. Ndegéocello's work has often been heavy with mood while elliptical of songcraft, but Weather contains her most direct material since the early 1990s: Dirty World struts along a ridiculously irresistible bassline, while the chorus of Change is as close as she gets to a glorious explosion of FM pop. Most revelatory is Oysters: this piano ballad softly conveys an extraordinary depth of feeling in the us-against-the-world dyad it depicts....full text
PopmattersYou 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....full text
SlantmagazineMeshell Ndegeocello has always had an idiosyncratic but deeply effective way with an image, but Weather highlights that particular gift in a way that her earlier efforts haven't. The initial announcement that she'd chosen to collaborate with producer Joe Henry raised at least a little bit of concern for me, given that Henry has turned in some truly banal work for artists like Aimee Mann and Rodney Crowell, but his relatively light touch on Weather keeps the focus on some of the most intimate and detailed lyrics of Ndegeocello's career. Considering the remarkable consistency and depth of her catalogue, it's hard to say that the pairing with Henry has resulted in the best album of Ndegeocello's career, but Weather is still a tremendously powerful effort.
There's an impressive amount of texture in Henry's production, from the impossibly deep bassline that runs almost imperceptibly behind the album's title track to the prog-inspired, distorted electric guitars that crop up intermittently on "Feeling for the Wall." Countless albums can be described as having "layered" arrangements, but Henry's work on Weather boasts an exceptional degree of depth, particularly for an album that establishes its subdued, quiet aesthetic from its first few notes. Because of Henry's spot-on matching of each song's sonic palette to the tone of Ndegeocello's introspective lyrics, Weather favorably recalls John Vanderslice's Emerald City for its sophisticated, meticulous production.
Still, however strong Henry's work may be, Weather remains a showcase for Ndegeocello. She berates herself for refusing to let go of a long-ended relationship on "Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear" more for a tendency to equate her obsession with simple nostalgia ("I was just one in a million/Who thinks the hey-day was their day/And tragically longing for the past") than for her inability to move on. The slinky groove of "Petite Mort" subverts the connotations of its title, as Ndegeocello effortlessly lapses into her smooth upper register to implore her lover, "Let me die/Let me die a small death/As you tell me the truth/Who's your daddy now?" It's a song of startling complexity and raw, naked emotion, and the same can be said of most every song on Weather....full text
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