The last time Stones Throw released an album of funky R & B they gave us Dam-Funk’s ‘Toeachizown’ so the bar has been set pretty high, the Baltimore duo Silk Rhodes therefore have their work cut out to avoid letting label head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf down. Fortunately they do not. This is a high quality album of soulful, jazzy R & B that won’t trouble end of year charts only due to being released in December. I’m pretty sure that given a more timely release and a bit of hype, this would have made many a top 10. Their Prince like silky grooves could even find mass market favour with fans of Pharrell if only they knew where to look for such non mainstream artists (hey kids – check out the Norman website!). Funkier than the former Nerd & avoiding the worst of his tendency to make you cringe when he talks of female empowerment – they could be big. Their Stones Throw debut single ‘Pains’ marries almost ‘Dummy’ era Portishead beats with a lovely soulful vocal. Those that picked that 7″ up will have been hoping for something special from the LP and will not be disappointed. The album continues with the boogie and swagger of ‘Face 2 Face’, a pretty infectious track that is probably about as close to pop as Stones Throw have ever come. Hell, stick it on a TV show & they’d have the next money spinner for the label a la Aloe Blacc’s ‘Dollar’. There is plenty more where that comes from too, though there are a couple of things that do stop this album from being a full marks affair. The albums running order seems to be slow /funky/slow/funky track etc…I think that better programming may have made the album a little more engaging if perhaps there was a little more subtlety in the shift across moods. Also the track ‘Laurie’s Machine’ uses that tired old cliché of answerphone messages to tell its story. If I had a dollar for every ‘urban’ album that used this trick… The references to paging each other are also odd – are they still a thing? Is it an attempt at a throwback reference? Minor gripes I know – at least one can be tackled by programming your CD player to re-sequence. Those possibly personal reservations aside, this really is a very good album. This duo could be huge – why not get in on them now & you can be first in line to say, ‘I used to like their old stuff better’ when they become the new Neptunes.
SILK RHODES – PAINS (AUDIO): http://youtu.be/50knYHJH1ng