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After clocking six years as a member of R&B groups Danity Kane and Diddy-Dirty Money, Dawn Richard left the major label world to make her way in R&B as an indie artist. Her timing couldn't be better: with acts like the Weeknd and Miguel exploring misanthropy and vulnerability in the male psyche, it was about time a melismatic R&B diva took a similarly adventurous direction.
Interestingly, the New Orleans native doesn't shy away from the kind of effusive dance tempos typically blamed for sucking the soul out of R&B. But she makes them her own. This debut album builds on the muscular sound of last year's gorgeous Armor On EP with tribal, second-line-style drumming, jazzy piano and eerie pop ambience that recalls Peter Gabriel, an influence bluntly acknowledged on a clubby ode to his 80s ballad In Your Eyes.
Richard's voice blends equal amounts of yearning and restraint; it often sounds distant, as if her quavering timbre must overcome some voluminous chasm to reach us. While some of her melodies could be a bit more defined, she's a nuanced enough performer to captivate at the most self-indulgent of times.
Top track: '86