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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.

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Masego - Lady Lady Music Album Reviews

All cognac and white linen, the Virginia R&B musician’s debut album is steeped in quiet storm and beefed up with crisp drums and booming production: a sophisticated, seductive mix.

It doesn’t take long to reach the heart of Masego’s debut full-length album, Lady Lady. It’s a meditation on women, strong women: those loved and lost, some who’ve taught him hard lessons along the way, others who haven’t entered his life yet. Through real and imagined narratives, the singer navigates the nuances of black romance, celebrating the bliss and uncertainty it brings. He honors the southern charm of women from his native Newport News, Virginia, the sexiness of a late-night dance on the beach. He’s also a young man who wants to parlay for a little bit. “Wanna use my fame and lay wit a model,” he quips on “Lavish Lullaby,” one of various standouts from the new album.

Lady Lady soundtracks the evening, when the sun shifts along the horizon and the air begins to cool. All cognac and white linen, it’s the record you play just after the storm, as the steam billows from the concrete and the nightlife is beginning to pick up. The album also delves into the dichotomy of Masego himself: the good dude, the bleeding-heart romantic, the burgeoning talent wrestling with his own ego. His music is sophisticated, steeped in 1980s quiet-storm R&B with hints of smooth jazz along the fringes. He calls it “trap house jazz,” a retro-futuristic mix of booming bass drums and staggered rap cadences made for open-air festivals and adult-contemporary radio. Masego is an old soul who, at the age of 25, can evoke the sweet tenderness of Stevie Wonder and the gritty shit talk of Anderson .Paak. He caters to both crowds, crafting a sound that pulls in black music’s past and present in equal measure.

Long before this album, Masego released an assortment of tracks and EPs on Bandcamp that included everything from repurposed Stevie songs to tropically themed bounce beats dedicated to his roots in Kingston, Jamaica. Though the song quality varied from track to track, one could hear Masego inching toward the fleshed-out arrangements he creates now. It showcased his ambition: Masego handled almost everything himself—singing, producing, and arranging each tune. He taught himself how to play piano, saxophone, drums, bass, and guitar in high school, then started posting his original work on SoundCloud.

There was no grand breakthrough moment for Masego; the notoriety he’s achieved to this point is the result of steady gains made over the past five years. But if he did get a major assist, it was around 2016, when the renowned producer DJ Jazzy Jeff cosigned Masego and started working with him. He later released a well-received compilation of demos called Loose Thoughts, which—despite all the music he’d dropped—was dubbed a proper introduction to Masego’s full creative range.

Featuring vocalists SiR and Tiffany Gouché, producer Sounwave, and singer/composer French Kiwi Juice (aka FKJ), Lady Lady offers a wide-ranging glimpse into Masego’s different interactions with the stronger sex. On “I Had a Vision,” he lauds their strength and independence, then on “Black Love,” a gorgeous ballad near album’s end, Masego envisions his wedding day, singing to his potential bride on the altar. The writing is poetic, evoking a head-in-the-clouds motif that recalls Stevie classics like “Knocks Me Off My Feet” and “With Each Beat of My Heart.” To that end, though, Masego skews too close to his influences in certain spots, and on interlude “24 Hr. Relationship,” he lifts a scene from The Love Below half of OutKast’s 2003 double disc, recreating it almost line for line here. On an album meant to establish Masego as a standalone entity, its inclusion feels like a misstep, though it doesn’t diminish the record’s overall flow. In the end, Lady Lady is a grand coming-of-age record that displays the playful and reflective halves of Masego, illuminating his versatile nature with the promise of more to come.



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