Alternative R&B has provided some of the best albums of the last few years, 'Blonde' by Frank Ocean being just one of the most obvious examples. 'Cosmic Wind', Lion Babe’s latest album makes a valiant effort to be part of that line-up but sadly falls short.
In 2016, Lion Babe (singer Jillian Harvey and producer Lucas Goodman) released their debut 'Begin', demonstrating plenty of promise. With their ‘Wonder Woman’ track, for example, they built a feminist powerhouse, joined by Pharell with his signature clickety-clack production in full force.
'Cosmic Wind' comes after breaking with label Interscope to go independent, but where 'Begin' produced unexpected gems this record (ironically) could do with some of the fiery free spirit that usually comes with new independence.
The title track/opener sets things off in confident terms. It’s a true highlight, with dense and suitably cosmic production – Jillian’s soft rap shows her sassy side, while her high notes reach toward the ecstatic.
Given that ‘Western World’ features Wu Tang’s own Raekwon and quotes heavily from the Pet Shop Boys’ classic ‘West End Girls’, it’s disappointing that nothing really lands, Goodman’s production sounding funk-lite and Raekwon’s verse anticlimactic.
‘Sexy Please’ continues in this trajectory, something of an elevator club-jam. It’s head-bobbing but little more, and soon fades from memory.
That’s not to be too harsh on this record – as Lion Babe are a duo capable of much – but in a field as cluttered as alternative R&B, where some of the boldest, most innovative music this side of the millennium has emerged, frankly there’s a need to aim higher, to stray more vehemently from formula.
‘Cosmic Wind’ still manages to set a mood, languorous and lush, perfect on a capital’s rooftop, cocktail in hand, the last sunrays hitting perfectly. But you can all too easily imagine this slotting into some Spotify algorithm, a mood playlist titled “Summer Vibezz”.
Words: Noura Ikhlef
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