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Stage (2)

Sweetback

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Album Review

Eight years after their debut release, Sweetback return with the mellow follow-up Stage [2]. The group — guitarist/saxophonist Stuart Matthewman, keyboardist Andrew Hale, and bassist Paul Denman (R&B diva Sade's backing band) — has crafted a laid-back album of retro-soul, contemporary R&B, melodic pop, and mildly experimental electronica. This time around, vocalists Chocolate Genius and Aya take over the lead singer duties from Sweetback's previous collaborators, Maxwell and Amel Larrieux. While the first album seemed like a hip furthering of the work the band did with Sade, Stage [2] feels even more like a side project — heavy on the electro atmosphere — with songs so minor and slight that they barely register. In that sense, those Sade fans hoping for more of the same accessible, jazzy, and sophisticated songs she is known for may or may not like this. There are some nice tracks, though, especially the Aya ones such as the atmospheric ballad "Lover," which would have fit nicely on Love Deluxe. Similarly engaging is the melancholy indie pop-sounding "Things You'll Never Know," which brings to mind the best Ivy. On the other hand, Chocolate Genius's woozy psychedelic vibe isn't as charming as Maxwell's dreamy croon, although the darkly acoustic "Jesus Girl" does sound a bit like Terry Callier produced by Jermaine Dupri. While the album isn't fully engaging, fans of quirky R&B looking for a mellow listen may find Sweetback a minor delight.

Stage (2), Sweetback
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