Food (Ninja Tune)

Rating: NNN

On the heels of a food-truck promotion at SXSW, Kelis gives us an album called Food, in which half of the songs are named for edibles. No surprise, really, coming from an R&B singer who trained as a saucier at Le Cordon Bleu.

This is not the Kelis who sang about her milkshake, nor is Food similar to the electro-dance turn of 2010’s Flesh Tone. In 2014, she’s nurturing herself – inspired by the records she grew up listening to. On a horn-heavy album full of throwback soul, funk and a dose of Afrobeat, husky-voiced Kelis sings mostly happy songs about satisfaction in the love department, with the exception of Biscuits N’ Gravy, which alludes to a long-suffered pain that might never fully go away. (Her divorce from Nas?)

A couple of songs sound like Much More Music hits (Breakfast, Forever Be), but a few genuine surprises – the Simon & Garfunkelesque cover of Labi Siffre’s Bless The Telephone, the slow-burning Floyd and country-rocking Friday Fish Fry – demonstrate Kelis’s deft versatility.

Top track: Floyd

Kelis plays the Danforth Music Hall June 11.

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