The ArchAndroidAlbum |
Lady Gaga's got nothing on her.
The 2008 EP Metropolis: The Chase Suite stoked quite a buzz around Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Janelle Monae, introducing a complex Afro-Futurist storyline and persona suggesting deep connections to previous generations of experimental African-American artists, from novelists Ishmael Reed and Octavia E. Butler to Parliament-Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder and Prince. But even that promising EP doesn't prepare the listener for the brilliance of Monae's full-length debut, which is every bit as ambitious and strange, but crucially adds a passel of joyous and indelible pop hooks. Monae's self-mythology -- something about time travel, android doppelgangers and artistic suppression -- is there for those who want it, but the true pleasures of The ArchAndroid are in the fantastically catchy songs. The future-funk James Brown homage "Tightrope" is only the first in a potential string of hits including the summery tropicalia of "Locked Inside," the passionate rocker "Cold War" and the lush ballad "Say You'll Go." Elsewhere, a psychedelic collaboration with Of Montreal, the Stereolab-like electronic minimalism of "Wondaland," and a pair of tracks that suggest an interest in early '70s UK prog-folk acts like Mellow Candle and Comus make The Archandroid as varied and intriguing a pop album as is likely to be released in 2010.