Saturday, August 18, 2012

Unbuttoned - 2012 - Electric Kingdom

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With the recent success of acts like Drake and Frank Ocean, there’s been a supposed “revival” of R&B, a genre that had been mostly recognized as the reason R. Kelly’s “Trapped In The Closet” ever came to fruition up to now. It’s too bad that some of that sudden attention to a long-dormant genre in the pop landscape didn’t land on Canadian group Unbuttoned, because seriously? Electric Kingdom is, and I say this with my butt on the line, everything that music should be. From the opening notes of “Something Wicked”, something just feels right: perhaps it’s the gentle yet empowered coos of vocalist Casey Manierka-Quaile as the track builds from a piano ballad into a jazz-rock slow jam. Yes, this is R&B, but who says that you can’t throw some other ideas into the pot with it? Indeed, album standout “Play on Pain” makes its appeals over a rousing gospel overlay, while “Cold in The Summertime” is a chameleon of a track, mixing brass and beats with a hard rock sensibility, all carried over a bed of electronic synths, before it strips back down to a piano solo near the end. And like that title suggests, this release is not one lacking in warmth behind its ice-cool surface. The desires here may be seductive, even primal, but they project themselves out of real emotions, real pain. That vulnerability tears the superhuman back down to the human—and elevates Electric Kingdom from merely a good listen to a great reflection on life. Drake who?

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