Often music releases quieten down for December, but as well as SZA’s impressive SOS (covered last week), Little Simz and Tricot also released albums in the final month of the year. Tricot’s drummer is the token male this week. Enjoy Sudan Archives’ arty and violin-infused R&B, the socially conscious hip-hop of Little Simz, and Tricot’s math-pop.
Natural Brown Prom Queen
Brittney Parks’ stage name is confusing – I would have assumed it was a collection of long-lost recordings from Northern Africa. But the Cincinnati-born artist is interesting enough anyhow – her skills as a violinist add a different angle to her alternative R&B. Parks told The Guardian about the violin that “It’s such a serious instrument in a western concert setting, but in so many other places in the world it brings the party.” Her sophomore album Natural Brown Prom Queen is sometimes confusing, as she bounces between party-oriented bangers and more arty fare, but her musicality is always impressive. The single ‘NBPQ (Topless)’ is a synopsis of Parks’ methods, bouncing from chanting “I just wanna have my titties out” to a lovely violin solo.
‘ChevyS10’ echoes Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, repurposing the line “we can leave tonight or live and die this way.” ‘Tdly (Homegrown Land)’ collides an Irish fiddle part with R&B themes and textures. Oddly, ‘Freakalizer’ isn’t one of the album’s four singles, as it seems like the most radio-friendly piece, with its smooth electric piano groove, airy verse melody, and catchy chorus.
There’s sometimes an awkward collision between arty instincts and commercial instincts, but Sudan Archives’ sheer musicality makes Natural Brown Prom Queen fascinating.
No Thank You
Little Simz enjoyed critical adoration in 2021. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was one of the year’s most-loved records, scooping the Mercury Prize. Where that album was grand, with orchestration and big concepts, No Thank You is a more low-key affair, slipping out in mid-December with little fanfare. There’s still some orchestration, but the focus is squarely on Little Simz’ lyrics and vocals. Produced by Inflo and featuring backing vocals from Cleo Sol, No Thank You continues a prolific couple of months from the Sault camp.
Opener ‘Angel’ is one of my favourite Little Simz tracks – it doesn’t hurt that she references the New Zealand delicacy manuka honey, but the Cleo Sol-sung chorus is gorgeous. It forms a strong opening pair with ‘Gorilla’, even though No Thank You is a little weaker than Simz’ previous records overall. The album branches into neo-soul at the end, with ‘Who Even Cares’ and ‘Control’. The centrepiece track ‘Broken’ has also been hitting hard for me, as I’ve been struggling with a troubled neighbour.
Generational trauma you’ve had to deal with aloneLittle Simz, Broken
No father, how do you become a man on your own?
Did the best that you could with the tools you were loaned
Didn’t know how to break the mould and now you’re raising a clone
No Thank You is a step down from Little Simz’ previous two records, but she’s still an impressive talent on a more modest record.
Japanese band Tricot have been prolific recently – Fudeki (Japanese for failure) is their fourth album since 2020’s Makkuro. It draws on the stockpile of songs that the band wrote during the COVID lockdown, like a sister album to 2021’s Jodeki (success). The band describes it as “a collection of our non-arrivals”. The leftovers format makes for a relaxed record that tries out different styles. The single ‘End Roll’, which has been out for almost a year, is a prime example of the band’s recent work. There’s a poppy melody delivered at breakneck speed, with a chaotic arrangement that showcases the band’s virtuosity.
‘#Achoi’ is another snappy, pop-infused track, but Tricot also take the opportunity to stretch out. The opening track is slathered in feedback, while the title track is a lengthy jam. There’s incredibly complex music like ‘Android’, and the closing remix of the previous record’s title track is refreshingly peppy after a dark and dense record.
Fudeki is a haphazard clearing house of leftovers, but it’s fun to hear Tricot stretch out.