in Review

Jamila Woods – Water Made Us

Ah, relationships and heartache. Two topics that never seem to grow old in the realm of pop music, and the topics that seem to be most abundant on Jamila Woods’ latest album Water Made Us. To call Water Made Us a concept album feels like a bit of a stretch, but its depictions of break-ups, moving on, and finding yourself lend it to a thematic cohesion at the very least. This was also an attribute of Woods’ last album Legacy! Legacy!, whose songs were inspired by iconic Black cultural figures in varying ways. Though here, she’s turned her gaze inward, and in the process creates something more personal while retaining her inscrutable cool.

Though there is a lot of recent alternative R&B (or progressive R&B or whatever you want to call it) that I’ve liked, a lot of it sometimes is too chill for me to ever quite penetrate. This would explain why Kelela ended up being one of my most listened-to artists of the year, despite the fact that I’m not sure if I even like her music that much. Jamila Woods, on the other hand, hits just that perfect sweet spot: the production is smooth, warm, and a little funky, but also the melodies are just catchy enough to keep me hooked without getting lost in purely vibes.

Water Made Us is filled with a fair amount of spoken word interludes, mostly consisting of poetry composed by Woods (in addition to being a singer with an indie record deal, she’s also a published poet). The combination of songs about failed relationships and these interludes can’t help but bring to mind Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales, a recent masterstroke of similar territory. However, Woods’s reflections on relationships are always a bit more abstract and amorphous. It’s a remarkable skill she has — the ability to make her songs relatable, but also communicating them with the artistry of a true savant.

Favorite Tracks: “Tiny Garden (feat. duendita)”, “Still”, “Headfirst”