(5 / 5)
Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Becca Stevens drops her tremendously exciting fifth studio album this coming Friday (20th March 2020).
“WONDERBLOOM” (stylised all upper case) fuses funk, pop, r&b with shades of jazz, folk and electro’ across the 14 tracks, originals penned by Becca and some co-written with various collaborators.
Becca has previously collaborated with the likes of Laura Mvula, Snarky Puppy, Jacob Collier, Billy Childs, David Crosby and she was part of the band Tillery. Becca also leads her own band. She guests on 19 albums by artists as varied as Esperenza Spalding, Jose James and Dapp Theory.
“WONDERBLOOM” opens the batting with “Low On Love”. Slight Ellie Goulding vibes on this pleasant electro-pop cut. Second track, the fabulously funky, feel-good Prince or Janet Jackson-templated “I Wish”, and again the vocals are well on-point.
Three in, the slow burner and excellent “Between Me & You”, Becca displaying beautiful vocal control. Not easy to pin a label on which genre to file 35-year-old Becca’s music under, as this set really is a varied melting pot of styles.
Lead single “Good Stuff” is what it says on the tin, good stuff. A kind of 80s electro-pop meets gospel. It features soul-stirring gospel harmonies – which is actually 64 layers of Michael Mayo singing 50 different parts. Who says blokes can’t multi-task?
I mentioned previous track “Between Me & You” being a slow burner. This next one is called “Slow Burn”, but it’s not a slow burner. Are you with me? It’s very much in funky groove territory, the same kind of deal as the fab “I Wish”. Both funk cuts take up where Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Prince and MJ/Quincy left off, as regards production values and being in the pocket.
“Charlemagne”: Wispy and ethereal touches on the vocals and a sparse music track. Things get a little darker and heavier with the moody “I Will Avenge You”, another superbly self-assured vocal performance.
“You Didn’t Know” has a Celtic core to it, and at times, I am reminded of Joni Mitchell with Becca’s vocal timbre. The drummer is on his game on the complex “True Minds”, which has a bit of a Prog’ folk feel to it, as it swirls and floats around Becca’s passionate vocal.
Another almost fantasy-like soundtrack, “Feels Like This”, before the closer “Never Mine”, with its crystal clear vocal. A song that sounds like it fits together with the previous two as some sort of trilogy.
As an aside, on my second listen of the album, especially with “Good Stuff”, I was reminded of one of my favourite bands, Scritti Politti and that band’s creative driving force Green Gartside…
North-Carolina born and bred and New York-based Becca released an EP with the same title as this album last November. She was here in the UK when the EP dropped, touring with her pals Snarky Puppy.
Becca co-produced and co-engineered this album with Nic Hard (Snarky Puppy, Ghost-Note, The Church). She drafted in more than 40 musicians to contribute to the project, including Vulfpeck guitarist Cory Wong.
Long-time collaborator Jacob Collier and all of her band mates on the David Crosby album “Lighthouse”, which was produced by Snarky Puppy’s leader Michael League, also help out. Michael also appears on this record, as does the legendary David Crosby himself.
Recorded in New York, L.A., North Carolina and France over many months, the album’s title comes from the Titan Arum, a plant whose singularly massive cluster of flowers takes eight years to blossom.
A long time for it to bloom, but the spectacular end result is worth waiting for. Sound familiar, Becca?
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’