Over at TBD, Sarah Godfrey points out that a handful of D.C.-area acts netted Grammy nominations last night: Chuck Brown in the Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals category for his Jill Scott collab “Love”; Raheem DeVaughn‘s The Love & War Masterpeace for Best R&B Album; and Mary Chapin Carpenter‘s The Age Of Miracles for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
But here’s where Grammy voters surprised me, and also nailed it: In the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category, they nominated local singer Carolyn Malachi‘s song “Orion.” The worst thing I can say about the record it comes from, Lions, Fires & Squares, is that the 29-minute release is too short.
The record, if you haven’t heard it, is inventive and pretty and, at times, unapologetically weird. I don’t know how Malachi would feel about the comparison, but I consider Lions, Fires & Squares—-a record largely in the key of knowing retro-futurism—-a cousin of Janelle Monae‘s excellent ArchAndroid album, also from this year. Listen:
Earlier this year, my colleague Erin Petty singled out “Orion” in a One Track Mind column. Check it.
In the tradition of the most ambitious works from Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, and Guns N’ Roses, the D.C. crooner’s magnum opus doesn’t live up to the hype. But it mostly succeeds on its own terms, and with any luck will carve out its own little place in history.
The final product, originally intended to be a double album, is a bit of a mess. The righteously eccentric (yet smoothly seductive) R&B singer originally envisioned a “war” disc and a “love” disc, with each accentuating one of his fixations—politics and boots-knockin’. Apparently the record-label geniuses weren’t feeling the idea, or doubted the commercial viability of a double CD from an artist lacking a gold album or a name brand.
I agree with Westhoff’s reading—-DeVaughn’s is a solid but uneven album. But the best moments—-“Bulletproof,” “Nobody Wins a War”—-are downright chilling.