October 16 2018

Vacant

Welcome to October! I am fashionably late with my greeting but time waits for no man. I can't believe we're already halfway through the tenth month of 2018 and little over a year since I wrote my first review. This cold October evening I find myself sitting in front of my computer, writing my tenth album review which in typical Jaide-style is also fashionably late. As you may find yourself gorging pumpkin spice latte's and binge-watching nostalgic Halloween movies I suggest you take a 20-minute break to listen to this short album which, dare I say, may even be a better time investment than Halloween Town 2. 

This week's long-overdue album review goes to Amaka Queenette's debut EP, Vacant. I attended a listening party for this album before it came out in August and it was absolutely inspiring. With no idea of what to expect in terms of genre or style, this album really surprised me. Produced by the artist herself alongside Joshua Stanberry this album is much more full than I would expect a self-made project to be. There are many instruments used throughout including trumpet, violin, bass, drums and many other synthesized sounds which make the album sound like it was produced and funded by a large record label. When it finishes playing, I always wish that it was longer because of the amazing journey that it took me on and how it made me feel, especially at the end.

Show me, Vacant's first track, starts at low volume with the full production and builds via volume instead of through rhythm or through the addition of instruments. This type of build is not something I've really noticed in other songs before, its more often used as an outro to a song. To be honest, I am not sure if I prefer it or not. The bass and drums in this song are prominent, which I love. The percussion is a complex rhythm for most of the song except for at the pre-choruses where it slows down the exact right amount. The bass is simple throughout the whole song except for around minute 2:20 where there is a short, beautiful and perfect lick to transition verses. Show me provides an easy entry to the journey that the listener is about to embark on in this album.

Track 2, Neighbours,  starts with full production beneath short dialogue. The dialogue returns again almost mid-way through the song. I usually don't like dialogue in music because I love to hear people sing, that's why I clicked on an album and not a dissertation right? But in this case, since the dialogue is short and smoothly transitions between the music I don't really mind it. This song has four distinct sections where the vibe of the song changes: the dialogue, the singing, the rap and the choir sections. The singing sections are good, but not the highlight of the song in my opinion. The rap section is a slight improvement on that, where rapper Remsen delivers a smooth and thoughtful verse but my favourite part of the song is where the choir comes in. This is another way to build a song that is not often used in music other than gospel. As I have really been able to notice in this song, building voices instead of musical instruments  is an even more pleasant way to get to a high point. When I reach this point in the song I feel excited and I experience these same feelings later in the album during the 4th track.

The 3rd song, Indecision slows down the high paced, upbeat vibe that the album has been carrying so far, almost to a ballad. Amaka sings about her indecision and her desire to get rid of it in few words. The music is kept soft with broken guitar chords, a low trumpet and no percussion. The trumpet solos halfway through the song but never takes off, successfully maintaining the soft feel. If the album was compared to a book, Indecision would be the falling action in the plot. It gives the listener the opportunity to reflect but also anticipate the resolution or denouement. 

Independence, the final song, carries the falling action plot into the first half before it hits the resolution about a minute and a half way through. Before reaching this point though, the song begins with a quiet bass, strummed guitar and soft vocals. As this point is approached an almost indistinguishable male vocalist backs Amaka's words until the choir comes in for a short period of time. Finally, we hit the denouement with the repetitive violin melody and guitar solo, which I have to talk about. Justin Der did a fantastic job of creating it so that it gives the impression that the album is concluding and yet it peaks my interest as I anticipate the end of the EP, but that's not the end. Plot twist! Eventually the choir comes back and all instruments except for the drums are dropped in preparation for the song's own individual climax where the bass is first reintroduced and the drums queue the reentry of all the other instruments simultaneously with a bang. This has got to be the finest moment of the whole album.

Overall I rate this album 5 stars. Listening to it 2 months after its release, it still impresses me. I am obsessed with the production which tells a story without even having to know what the words of the album are saying. It truly excites me to hear all of the unexpected climaxes even though I know that they're coming. There is not one thing that I don't like or would even consider changing on the entire work and it competes with all of the other 5-star albums. I cannot wait to hear what Amaka Queenette comes out with next.

Album of the day : Vacant

Artist : Amaka Queenette

Genre : R&B/Soul

Release year : 2018

★★★★★

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