Listens for the Week #18: Skyzoo & The Other Guys, Stevie Wonder, Carly Rae Jepsen
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, I’ve been exploring so many different avenues of music from pop rock to jazz fusion, but I’ve primarily been hooked on soul and dance-pop, while leaving a little room for new records.
Skyzoo & The Other Guys – The Mind of a Saint (2023)
If you’re familiar with Skyzoo’s music then you will know what you’re getting into with The Mind of a Saint. It doesn’t break new ground for Skyzoo sonically, but that’s not to say that the production is forgettable, because the cool and laidback jazz backdrop from the Other Guys is gorgeous and sets the tone perfectly for the MC to work his magic on the mic. Where the album truly shines is in its concept and writing. Skyzoo has always had an eloquent and introspective sense of lyricism, but The Mind of a Saint pushes his writing to new heights as he takes on the persona of Franklin Saint and details his experiences in Crack Era America. The narrative is intriguing, the creativity is brilliant, and overall, it’s just another stellar release from Skyzoo to add to his consistent catalogue of work.
Stevie Wonder – Music of My Mind (1972)
Stevie Wonder’s catalogue is full of summery soul classics, but Music of My Mind isn’t praised nearly as much as his later works such as Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. While I don’t think it’s quite on the same level as those two, it still deserves attention for its heartfelt writing, lush instrumentation and stunning vocals. “Keep On Running” is one of his best tracks ever, with the fast-paced funk instrumental and backing vocals giving Stevie’s performance so much power and energy. “Superwoman” is another incredible highlight, with the carefree first half contrasted by a sudden change in instrumentation and some of Stevie’s most despairing balladry he’s ever sang. From front to back, there isn’t a subpar song to be heard, and while the highlights aren’t as numerous as on his other ‘70s essentials, there’s no denying that Music of My Mind is another gorgeous Stevie Wonder classic.
Something I Love
Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time (2022)
With each passing month, I appreciate The Loneliest Time more and more. It’s not as dance-influenced as Emotion nor as instantly gratifying as Dedicated, but at the heart of this record is some of Carly’s most creative and cohesive work yet. Instead of her usual lyrical focus on finding love and embracing relationships, The Loneliest Time takes a different turn where Carly writes about having time alone, failing to find someone genuine, and getting back with old partners. It’s a refreshing change of pace for Carly which allows her writing ability to blossom, and that’s complemented by the diverse and colourful production throughout. The punching synths and drums of “Surrender My Heart” build on Carly’s passion; the sparse, dreamy instrumentation on “Western Wind” reflects her isolation and vulnerability; and the every-changing sounds of “The Loneliest Time” make for one of her most dynamic and satisfying songs ever. As a whole, The Loneliest Time may not be quite as consistent as Emotion, but the highlights of this record are still numerous, and the sounds are so diverse, making this one of her best and most exciting projects to date.