D’Angelo drops out of nowhere
After a 14-year wait, the soul legend suprises everyone with a sudden release of ‘Black Messiah’ It’s bean done
As leave of absences go, they don’t get much more effective than this: after 14 years of near silence, D’Angelo dropped an entire album this week that has been the best part of a decade in the making. And what an album: this is the kind of record worth buying new headphones for.
The first track, Sugah Daddy, peeked its head out the door first, and Annie Mac was out of the blocks early, playing it on her show on Sunday. But at that point there was no indication that the full 12 tracks were ready to go. In Rolling Stone, Questlove, who played on Black Messiah, hinted at the style the record was taking – a direction all of its own.
“It’s a passion project, and it’s everything,” he told a listening party in New York, where the record was unveiled a few hours later. “I don’t really want to give a hyperbolic or grandiose statement, but it’s everything. It’s beautiful, it’s ugly, it’s truth, it’s lies. It’s everything.”
He’s not wrong. The result is timeless and exhilarating. There’s a heavy dose of the funk of Prince, strange jazz musings bubbling along in the background (the band are called The Vanguard, a little hat tip to that New York jazz institution?), and the kind of deep, soulful mix that Marvin Gaye would find himself comfortably at home in.
As if the music wasn’t enough, D’Angelo is also walking a by-now familiar path of dropping a record without a hint of warning. David Bowie bolted from the blue in March 2013 with The Next Day; Beyoncé had her whole fifth album ready to rock 12 months ago, with videos attached. D’Angelo, though, has bidded his sweet time. He has yet to do an interview around the album’s release, but it seems that recent events in Ferguson forced his hand, and he felt now was the time to say something.
The biggest surprise, though, is that Black Messiah is worth waiting for. The minute word got around, pretty much every music writer lifted the phone to their editor and asked if they could get their “best of 2014” list back, with just one small change to make.
Don’t expect to see it top of anyone’s lists, as most of those are already well in the bag (and you can turn the page to see our readers’ choices for 2014). But for the few days left in December, Black Messiah is the only album anyone is talking about. Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler (above) is brewing up a signature coffee blend. To the dismay of thousands, it won’t be called Wake Up. On the upshot, sales proceeds will be donated to charity and beans are sourced from Haiti, a spiritual homeland to Butler and his fiery mates.
The collaboration with La Colombe Coffee is named RaRa – after the native Haitian music scene whose carnival soundings heavily influenced Arcade Fire’s Reflektor. Aside from the missed opportunity of a hilarious name (another better alternative being Ready To Start) the idea is officially “cool” with “da kids”. Because everyone who’s anyone produced a signature cup of Joe in 2014.
In February, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem released his blend House of Good. It’s $26 per pound, and the taste has somehow been likened to the sound of his music. We couldn’t afford a bag, but presumably there’s a bang of synthesisers off of it.
In May, wonder-lady St Vincent announced her signature brew, named Bring Me Your Mugs (after her album track Bring Me Your Loves). It does not taste like the song.
Of course, Kiss came up with the idea of self-branded coffee years ago, because there isn’t any junk or garb on the market that hasn’t been tarnished with the Kiss name (the 1970s were a good time for the glam-metal household).
Cinematic coffee comes via David Lynch. His line of organic roasts may cause backwards-speaking dream sequences, but otherwise makes for a damn fine cup of joe.
Expect more in 2015, if it hasn’t already bean done.