Album Review – Jhene Aiko’s ‘Sail Out’ (EP)

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It’s easy to see why LA-based soul songstress Jhene Aiko’s new EP ‘Sail Out‘ is a complete aural triumph.

With everyone from Drake, J Cole and Big Sean vying for a piece of Jhene, now is a good time to check out the feather-voiced nu-soul chanteuse’s stellar effort, which roared in at # 1 on the Billboard R’n’B/Hip Hop Albums Chart last week, and # 8 on the Billboard 200.

For starters, if you’ve grown up listening to Aaliyah, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott – and have kept tabs on what Solange and Cassie have been up to lately – then ‘Sail Out‘ should easily match up to your expectations. Jhene sails out on the swelling wave of new R’n’B divas like K Michelle, Solange, Sevyn Streeter and Tamar Braxton dominating the airwaves lately, and delivers a soul-packed stunner.

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Sail Out‘ is easily one of the smoothest and slinkiest EP’s I’ve heard this year – and it’s possibly my fave EP since Solange’s incredible ‘True‘ released last year. An insanely lush blend of dreamy, heavenly melodies blended in seamlessly with dazed vocal deliveries, Jhene effortlessly floats over ambient and sparse productions that mark each of the EP’s 7 tracks.

It may get a tad, just a tad monotonous. Stellar, still.

Tackling substance induced euphoria on the EP’s moody opening track ‘The Vapors‘, Aiko drifts in and out of metaphysical bliss as she dreamily repeats ‘Can I hit it again?‘, possibly trying to numb the pain of a long-distance relationship gone awry. The generally cold and stoic mood of the song is broken by Vince Staple’s rap verse, filling in the general sense of emptiness that prevails throughout the track.

The Childish Gambino-assisted first single ‘Bed Peace‘ follows, and Aiko’s vocal versatility is evident on this one as she brings in an Aaliyah-esque touch of feel-good 90’s R’n’B.  The vibe remains sleepy and down-tempo, as Aiko nonchalantly croons –

‘If I had it my way I’d roll out of bed

Say bout 2:30 mid day

Hit the blunt then, hit you up to come over to my place

You show up right away

We make love then and then we fuck

And then you’d give me my space’

Very, very direct. And there lies the magic of the song. The ‘Bed Peace‘ clip acts as a nod to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s eccentric bed-in protests of the Vietnam War in 1969 – and is worthy first single off the EP.

The spacey and mysterious trend changes slightly to a synth-heavy haze with the Kendrick Lamar assisted ‘Stay Ready (What A Life)‘ and the Juicy J assisted ‘WTH‘ – although Aiko firmly remains entrenched in her smokey and sinister wonderland.

Following which the EP spirals down to 3 of my favorite tracks on the EP. Aiko is the scorned femme fatale on ‘The Worst‘ – an icy and twinkling production that stands out as the EP’s best track so far. Her voice may not be the strongest or the best in the game – yet it has a distinct simplicity which makes the track instantly relate-able. Aiko keeps it raw and spits it out for her ex to see, occasionally cursing herself –

‘Everybody’s like

He’s no item

Please don’t like em

He don’t wife em

He one nights em

I never listened,

No.’

We’ve all been there right? Been used by that one particular former flame that we cannot get over? Preach, Jhene!

The dark and ominous ‘3:16‘ is the next track – with Aiko battling rather depressive thoughts in a consistent daze, followed by the profound ‘Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)‘, where she keeps it candid and real.

Essentially, the EP veers towards borderline morbid – and yet the palpable pain is what makes this one a winner. Somehow, it’s the polished, soulful and moody celebration of her loss that becomes Jhene Aiko’s trump card here.

With her full length début effort ‘Souled Out‘ due next year, expect Jhene to rule very, very soon!