Naama Kates | Souled Naama Kates, Souled

There is something decidedly new afoot when you are exposed to ostensibly “singer-songwriter”-type music and your responding impulse is a kind of thrilled puzzlement. You can’t put your finger on this particular singer-songwriter; she doesn’t seem to reside in any of the easy categories we’ve been handed down that might help us form our perceptions of what it is she’s doing and how well she’s doing it. Is she in fact “jazz,” is she “pop” or “rock” or downbeatish electro or dark lounge or “twisted folk” or blah blah blah and etc. etc. etc.?

All this ubiquitous gab about young artists who, having come up in the Internet Age, willfully/ignorantly devour any and all musical genres, cheerfully liquefy them and spew ‘em outrageously into the contemporary-pop stratosphere is, sure, quite common in recent times, but it must be said that blam blam blam! go the genre confines when singer-composer-keyboardist Naama Kates enters the picture. Her new album, Souled, is her third, and it’s a lot of different things whose chief pleasure is the way it locates one very beguiling human being at the center of it all. Kates, whichever avenue of thought or impulse she slips into, reveals facets of a character whom you want to know, or at least know a little more about.

Though she’s hardly faceless, Kates is far more than just a face. She is, maybe, the music she makes. She is the mesmerizing and slightly oddly shaped “Hurricane,” she is the surprisingly multi-vocaled songbird of “For Our Friends” and “ Wait Until Bright”; she is the glow-seeker of the burnished-gold “Sunrise” and she is too some of the sheer wickedness in emotional minefields like “Run” and “Growl”; she is a hit-single-maker with the electrified “Windows” (crank it loud). And when she sings “On My Love” or the title track, she’s taking you someplace, a place from which you feel like you might not return…but you do, though things are different now, somehow.

Souled is an unaffectedly arty and so accessible pop-with-brains –– or is it new shapes/sounds disguised as mere pop? Whatever the case may be, it’s deep and deeply moving, it's chillingly beautiful, it’s absorbing, it’s persuasive. Dig a bit and you’ll find a rare urgency –– and a deeply satisfying defiance. There’s something celebratory about this amazingly mixed set of sensations. Kates dug them up with the superbly sympathetic aid of producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Cyrus Melchor and a cast of the very best progressive-minded musicians on this or any planet, including guitarist GE Stinson; drummers Rich West, Jason Pipkin and Alfred DiMayo; cellist Joseph Harvey, horn player Danny Levin and recording engineer Scott Fraser.
–– John Payne

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