Recommend if you like: Noname, TheMIND, The Internet

Expectation: Jamila Woods is another rising star from Chicago who received a huge increase in attention thanks the the success of Chance the Rapper (though at this point, I wonder if Chance’s success can be partially attributed to the absurd amount of local talent he surrounds himself with). Woods is best known for her vocals on ‘Sunday Candy’ and ‘Blessings’; HEAVN is her debut project.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • Bubbles – Opening with a gentle, sweet vocal line before an incredibly perfect drum beat drops in. A simple but lovely opener.
  • VRY BLK – Using the melody from ‘Mary Mack’ was very clever, and makes the song’s message feel appropriately immediate and understandable. Noname drops a brilliant verse, as expected, and the beat is excellent, particularly the wobbling bass line and the tight, energetic drum beat.
  • Lonely Lonely – The beat here is more laid back, making for a nice change of pace to bring some of the focus back to Woods.
  • HEAVN – Another song with a simple but very nice vocal melody and crisp drum beat.
  • In My Name – I don’t really know why this song is so short, but its still nice, even if I feel there were a lot of directions that would have been more interesting for the song to go than just ending.
  • Blk Girl Soldier – A rock-influenced track that served as the project’s lead single. Woods’s vocals have a very appropriate energy here, and the layered vocals sound fantastic.
  • LSD – The instrumental here is one of the best on the album, with great drumming, some nice string hits, and a great guitar riff. Chance’s feature is good, though not his best, and Jamila Woods delivers some really lovely vocals.
  • Emerald St. – Another low key track, featuring some gentle keyboards which have been an increasingly popular sound in Chicago this year.
  • Lately – Simple melodies are the whole idea here, but this song borders on being too simple. The melody and guitar riff both feel so obvious that it gets old by the end of 2 minutes.
  • Breadcrumbs – Donnie Trumpet pretty always sounds great on his features, and this song is no exception. Not the best song on the album, but not bad.
  • Stellar – Another guitar riff that just feels a bit too basic, failing to meet the standard the rest of the album keeps up.
  • Holy – A great beat and a really nice gospel-influenced melody, with a touch of hip hop in the vocal delivery.
  • Way Up – I can see what Woods was going for here, but she just sounds so bored on her own track that it completely undermines the more grandiose melody.

Overall: HEAVN is a very promising project from yet another young Chicago musician who shows enormous potential. The sound is somewhere between Coloring Book and Telefone, transformed into gospel-esque R&B. Woods uses a very particular vocal tone throughout most of the album, singing in a sleepy, dreamy style that makes her melodies sound very soothing. The production is solid, especially the percussion, and all of the features provide nice additions without stealing the spotlight. While this project still shows plenty of room for Woods to mature as a songwriter, there are several very good songs here with almost no slack to be trimmed.

Score: 6/10

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