Sunday Sounds: Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (2010) ****

While sitting in the car earlier, listening to some of Gordon’s music choices, I decided I wanted to flex my writing muscles a little bit – as well as expanding my music knowledge – by reviewing a new (to me) album every week. Sunday felt like as good a day to do it as any and so Sunday Sounds has been born.

Given the inspiration started in his car, I thought I’d make Gordon decide – rather than myself – on which album to kick off with; he promptly gave me Janelle Monae’s first album; The ArchAndroid (2010).

Monae is a 28 year old soul/R&B singer originally from Kansas – she made her major debut in 2010 after collaborating with OutKast’s Big Boi and released her album The ArchAndroid – an eclectic mix of soul, 70s funk and pop.

The album is epic in the true meaning of the word; an 18 track spectacular split into two suites starting with Suite II Overture – an orchestral opening which audibly knocks the listener off kilter before opening into salsa-vibed Faster. As the album progresses, we’re taken on a musical history tour, starting firmly in the 70s camp with disco beats from Locked Inside and the more ethereal Sir Greendown. Yet it’s with Cold War and Tightrope we first feel the modernity of this album, the latter of which being the first official single from the collection.

It becomes clear as we listen on past folksy Oh, Maker that Monae doesn’t want to be placed in one pigeon-hole, and instead takes us on the journey through all of her influences, as varied as they are. This set of suites (a carry on from her Metropolis suites) starring her alter-ego android Cindy Mayweather was conceptually influenced by Hitchcock and Debussy, to name just a few.

With such a varied conceptual idea, it could be easy for this album to feel contrived and without flow but Monae achieves the opposite. This is no traditional pop album, instead acts more as a descriptive soundscape to a futuristic sci-fi movie.

This is most definitely an excellent album – but at 70 minutes long, it’s one for a lazy Sunday afternoon curled up on the sofa to really enjoy it in its entirety.

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