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The Soul Express Album of the Month

April 2004

Introducing Antoinique
(US X Records, 2004)
1) Intro 2) Blackwater 3) Phenomenon 4) Fell in Love 5) Krazy 6) Antoinique 7) Someday 8) Blue 9) Good Love 10) Sweeter 11) The Sweetest 12) Hearsay 13) First Name 14) Sunshine
I've been rather disappointed with many recent neo-soul releases, especially if they have been compared to real classics of the genre, like the best albums by Ledisi, N'Dambi and Jill Scott. Simply, the standard these artists created, is not easy to reach!
However, the debut set by Antoinique definitely gets a thumbs up from yours truly, even if it has been constantly compared with the aforementioned heroes of the neo-soul scene. As a vocalist, Antoinique is still far from perfect, but I greatly enjoy the jazzy vibe and grooves on the album, and she is also able to sing in a swinging way, as well as add some jazzy improvising to her vocal delivery.
The mainly programmed rhythms are flavoured by bass, keyboards, flute, saxophone and trumpet / flugelhorn. The prime tracks of the CD start with the flute-tinged swayer Fell in Love and the cool, Badu-ish neo-soul mid-pacer Krazy with its bass-y groove.
However, even better is the wonderful Good Love, which boasts a trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone and flute over the impressive, jazzy neo-soul backdrop. The following track, titled Sweeter, is another groovy and jazzy tune that would be ideal for N'Dambi - absolutely essential to any neo-soul enthusiast who appreciates a strong jazzy touch. It is followed by a reprise of the same (by the title The Sweetest) with some appetising saxophone and trumpet interplay.
Antoinique's voice is a bit fragile on the ballads - but do check out the soft piano-based ballad Someday - so the groovy and jazzy mid-pacers are her main forte. The self-titled track Antoinique is, oddly enough, an instrumental with a smooth jazz flavour.
As a whole, one of the most impressing neo-soul albums in the past two years - and a must-buy item to all jazz-inclined neo-soul devotees.
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express, editor

Albums of the Month in 2003
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