Meshell Ndegeocello Devil’s Halo
The hubbub surrounding neo-soul stalwart Meshell Ndegeocello began to dissipate around the time she dropped all the weird apostrophes and accent marks from her name, but she’s stayed plenty busy over the past decade, guesting on other artists’ records and embarking on her own offbeat sonic adventures. Ndegeocello’s eighth LP, Devil’s Halo, is something of a change of pace, in that it’s not an experiment in free jazz, hip-hop, spiritual verse, or any of the other subgenres she’s explored in recent years. But Devil’s Halo is hardly a straightforward R&B album, either. Running through 12 tracks in just over 35 minutes, Ndegeocello works her buttery voice between fat, fuzzy guitar riffs and spare percussion, crafting an album that relies on brief impressions—a flash of anger here, an expression of longing there, and a pervasive sensuality. Some songs on Devil’s Halo sound abstract and futuristic (such as the fatalistic “Die Young” and the Bowie-esque space-funk exercise “White Girl”), while others sound like spliced-together outtakes from an old Isaac Hayes album (such as the slow, seductive “Tie One On” and the faintly ominous “Love You Down”). The album as a whole is bracingly unpredictable and persistently enjoyable; it’s an art-soul record for those who like to be challenged while they’re tapping their toes. Or vice versa.