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Kelela - Raven (Album Review)

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Justin French

Six years on from Kelela’s debut, she has released a sophomore album of incredible fine tuning; presenting and proselytising around the Black queer female experience in a way that is at times forthright, delicate and incredibly groovy.

The London-Los Angeles split in Kelela’s life—she has lived in both cities over the past decade and change—is relevant to her sound. Touted as a neo-soul singer when she first broke into the music industry, ‘Raven’ is host to a variety of influences, some of the most interesting being ostensibly British.

One of them is the 1990s club sound blending jungle and drum ‘n’ bass on Missed Call and the superb Happy Ending. This latter track carries the ambient jazz tonality of drum ‘n’ bass innovator LTJ Bukem, and Kelela’s layered vocals make for a compelling, ethereal blend. 

Elsewhere, the album’s poppiest track is probably On the Run, which matches minimalist reggaeton progressions with elegant melodies and more of those marvellous blended vocals.

Both structurally and in its themes of intersectionality this song recalls Te Amo, one of the more romantic numbers from another artist who until recently had been on a bit of a hiatus: Rihanna. 

Much has been written about Kelela’s identity and in 2019 the singer created a primer, a sort of reading list, for friends, collaborators and business partners around the intersectional experience. As such, it is occasionally difficult to separate the artist from this and, in a sense, why would you?

But ‘Raven’ is also an excellent album on pure pop terms. The songwriting and production are thoughtful, varied and memorable and it’s likely this album will find its way onto ‘Best of 2023’ lists come December.

Kelela Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri April 07 2023 - LONDON HERE at Outernet

Compare & Buy Kelela Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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