Maylee Todd


Beneath the futurist shimmer, Maylee Todd's first album for Stones Throw has a heart of soul, finds Nathan Evans

Despite the surreal visuals paired with her fifth album, Maylee Todd’s Maloo is a relatively simple extension of classic soul music à la Anita Baker and Steve Arrington. Pre-release singles ‘Infinity Program’ and ‘Show Me’ could be recast into a pair of quiet storm gems from four decades ago, but rather live as insular sonic visions of the near future. Like the visuals, the presentation of these tracks is the difference-maker.

Debuting on Stones Throw Records, the Canadian artist delivers science-fiction soul music that borrows from undersung electronic greats. She rolls out a soft rug of synth tones to croon placatingly atop, the same cute sounds that throwback new-age artists were working with. Tracks like ‘Age of Energy’ and ‘Tiny Chiffon’ make the hypnotic world of Hiroshi Yoshimura more bubbly without losing its sense of whimsy, and the latter portion of the album gives way to Mort Garson-like synth calligraphy.

A more recent comparison would be Solange’s When I Get Home, itself a masterstroke of minimalist soul that makes earnest use of synthesiser bleeps and bloops. Gone is any influence of hip-hop from that project, however, as Todd zeros in on the suspended beatless moments like ‘Things I Imagined’ and ‘Time (Is)’. The two share a space-age aesthetic, but neither is a total escape of the present realm, instead something just about in-reach. Solange looks back to her home city, while Todd gazes ahead.

As she sings “future’s in our hands” on ‘Infinite Program’, the inner intention seeps through. From social media to social issues, Todd aims to rectify current instabilities for the future, all the while creating a benchmark for where we could be with airy production and her weightless vocals. Is she optimistic or pessimistic on where things will go? Both would be true. These songs act as an aural accompaniment for when we lie in bed thinking how the world got to this stage, simulating how vastly it could change if the scales tip in one direction or another. Just look at the hook line of track nine – “you know all I do is dream with you” – and you’ll realise Todd is doing the same.

Though a humbler offering than Solange’s avant-garde powerhouse, it’s hardly a point of criticism when Maloo is front-to-back solid. In a world that seems to get tougher as it advances, it’s nice to have an effortlessly enjoyable record for horizontal listening.

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