Listens for the Week #32: Jessie Ware, Mobb Deep, Parquet Courts
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, unsurprisingly, I have been obsessed with the latest record from dance-pop singer Jessie Ware, and that’s as far as my listening goes.
Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good! (2023) [Dance-Pop, Disco & R&B]
The follow up to her 2020 masterpiece, What’s Your Pleasure?, my expectations for new Jessie Ware music were as high as could be. The three singles were all magical, each showcasing a different aspect of what makes Ware’s brand of pop music so captivating. “Free Yourself” showed off her innate ability to make an addictive dance tune; “Pearls” displayed her immaculate production choice, with so many rich, soulful layers to dissect; and “Begin Again” flexed the strength of her voice in a distorted piano ballad laced with danceable grooves. I am delighted to say that the rest of the album maintains this level of quality, and That! Feels Good! is undoubtedly my favourite album of 2023. The title track kicks off the record with a slick blend of dance and funk, slowly building into this lush wall of sound with synths, bass, whispery backing vocals, horns, and chattering drums culminating into this gorgeous climax. Throughout the record, Ware showcases the flexibility of her voice. Her delivery on the title track is slow and seductive, whereas she belts her vocals on “Free Yourself”, she takes a more playful and animated approach on “Beautiful People”, and she even gives spoken word a try on “Shake the Bottle”. Taking all the elements that made What’s Your Pleasure? a masterpiece, this is not Jessie Ware regurgitating the same ideas, but reinventing them with more ambitious vocal styles, even more pristine production, and a tighter tracklist to help it flow seamlessly. Whether it is better than her last album, I could not confidently decide, but what I can say without a doubt is that Jessie Ware has delivered another masterpiece, crowning herself the best pop artist of the decade.
Mobb Deep – The Infamous (1995) [East Coast Hip Hop]
Around this time three years ago, locked inside during the pandemic, I discovered three hip hop classics. They were DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury, and Mobb Deep’s The Infamous. Now, every year, I find myself returning to them around this time as a prelude to the summer, and The Infamous might just be my favourite of the three. The album encapsulates everything brilliant about East Coast hip hop – the crashing boom bap drums, hypnotic jazzy samples, a grimy style of rapping, and a guestlist filled with New York’s finest MCs. From Q-Tip to Ghostface Killah, every feature is a highlight, but it’s Prodigy and Havoc who steal the show. They levitate over the gritty production, whether it be a more summery tune like “Temperature’s Rising” or a cold ballad of the streets like “Survival of the Fittest”. Their sense of lyricism is dark and vivid, fully immersing the listener in their crime-riddled stories of the streets of New York. Although the production could use a little more variety in its percussion, that is a minor issue and hardly distracts from the despairing glory of The Infamous.
Something I Love
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (2018) [Indie Rock & Dance-Punk]
Ever since I first heard “Freebird II” back in 2018, I have been in love with this album. It’s a fast-paced indie rock record with ever-changing instrumentation and a phenomenal performance from lead vocalists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, who sing in this hollering, drunken style. The intro, “Total Football”, encapsulates the essence of the whole record. It starts off with this slow, driving guitar, then quickly picks up the pace to twice the speed with the vocalists shouting over the danceable ripple of guitars. For the most part, the album maintains this high speed with an unhinged energy from the vocalists and a constantly changing instrumental beneath their voices. The album isn’t perfect, with slower cuts like “Death Will Bring Change” and “Back to Earth” interrupting the momentum and feeling out of place compared to the more dynamic tracks. However, with highlights as brilliant as “Freebird II”, “Tenderness” and “Almost Had to Start a Fight”, Wide Awake! has some of the greatest standouts on any album I have ever heard.