The breakup story at the heart of Tanika Charles’s full-length debut sounds like a blues lyric lifted from the Delta. Living on an Alberta farm with a man she no longer loved, she packed her bags, stole his jeep and fled to Toronto.
While the experience was likely painful as it unfolded, it’s epic in the retelling. Charles is a raconteur: she sings her tale of breaking up and bouncing back with ample doses of wit and a touch of irony. On More Than A Man, she chides her ex for getting upset when she called him the wrong name in bed, and on Money she shops her pain away while cooing to the notes stuffed in her bra. It’s an autobiographical album coming at the perfect time: post-Lemonade, fans want less coy and more candour from their artists.
Charles expands on the sound of 2010 EP What! What? What!? On that outing, classic Motown soul bounced over a low end inspired by hip-hop beats. On Soul Run, beats still reign, but they’re at their best when driving the emotion of a song. The drum coda on Heavy digs as deep as that song’s lament over a stifling love.
Charles has been a fixture on Toronto’s music scene for a good decade, singing backup for Bedouin Soundclash and Zaki Ibrahim. For some fans, that familiarity may lend to the album’s around-the-way-girl feel. But you don’t have to know Charles to be instantly drawn in by her charisma it’s like sitting at the bar with a girl who has endlessly hilarious tales to tell.
Top track: More Than A Man
Tanika Charles plays the Great Hall on June 10. See listing.