Niia - I
There is a group of female R&B singers out there who are working in the Trip-Hop, Sophisti-Pop or whatever genre you want to call it creating this really rich and diverse brand of music. Tei Shi, Verete and Niia all fall in this same vein of thinking even though their music is quite different from each other. Niia's version is on full display in this new album I where her classically trained Piano and Jazz Singing skills creep in. The first full track "Hurt You First" not only tells a really novel story, but it also perfectly blends jazz and hip hop elements into this really lush sound. The production duties are turned over to Robin Hannibal and he is able to pull so much out of these tracks. "Sideline" could so easily be just another sappy love song with a twinge of jazz influences, but instead these two make it both classically beautiful and incredibly modern. It is the thing many artists try to do and fail at so miserably; sliding closer to imitation, but Niia sounds singular in her delivery. "Sideline" sounds like it belongs in the best James Bond opening you've ever seen. The record feels like such a great blend of orchestral music and hip hop or pop, it is classic and strong but is not full of itself unwilling to play around and experiment. I lands right in the sweet spot, fun enough for the general listener and complex enough for those wanting to take a deep dive.
"Last Night in Los Feliz" is an absolute stunner of a track, and probably the best offering here, as it crawls it's way through this somewhat muddy track. However, Niia's patience is absolutely incredible allowing the track to take shape before she lets everything loose. She is able to balance the excitement of new love and the the pain of loss so well on I, despite the fact it is such well worn territory. Many of the tracks remind you of Zero 7's records, but not quite as expansive as those songs felt. Her style is such grown up sexy that you cannot help but fall in love with Her sweet soulful voice. There are some times like on "Constantly Dissatisfied" where Niia's sound can get a little to adult contemporary for it's own good, yet the next track "California" brings in more trip-hop elements and reminds you how modern she can sound. The final third of the record does tend to be a bit on the sluggish side but it does not detract from how well the entire albums flows and sounds, just leaves room for growth in the next offering. With a sound this vibrant things are only looking up for Niia, and if this record is any indication we are going to benefit greatly.
8.0 out of 10