New Amerykah Part One (4th World War, 2008) saw neo-soul hero Erykah Badu tackling politics and social issues as well as going off on some strange sonic tangents. It was the kind of thing music critics love to write about but wasn't exactly an easy-listening experience. For the sequel, Badu is back to love songs over smooth analog grooves, and while it might not be as mind-bending as its predecessor, it is a deeply enjoyable excursion.
Where Part One felt claustrophobic and paranoid, Part Two is relaxed and comfortable, closer to the vibe of her 1997 breakout album, Baduizm, than anything she's done since. The spacey, meandering jams flow effortlessly, bringing to mind sunny afternoons with an old lover and a big bag of weed. No, it's not the kind of album that'll change the world, but it might just be the perfect summer soundtrack of the year.
Top track: Gone Baby, Don't Be Long