Bonjay – Lush Life (Mysteries of Trade)
Much is made of the modern “Toronto sound,” as supposedly represented by Drake, the Weeknd, et al. It’s supposedly an icy, detached sonic approach to hip-hop and R&B, with slight Caribbean and African influences, with emotionally vulnerable lyrics.
But along comes vocal powerhouse Alanna Stuart and producer Ian Swain, who as Bonjay make thrilling modern R&B inflected with Jamaican dancehall rhythms and German electronic music, somewhere on the spectrum between Solange and Kate Bush, but decidedly funkier than either, with some of the sci-fi soul of South African Toronto expat Zaki Ibrahim in the mix as well. This should be known as the Toronto sound.
Stuart is nothing short of stunning: soulful and seductive, with the occasional operatic flourish. (Check out her revelatory take on k.d. lang's "Constant Craving" with the Queer Songbook Orchestra, which impressed the icon herself.) The music underneath her rarely goes for the obvious; despite Stuart’s clear star appeal, these aren’t straightforward pop songs, and they’re stronger for it.
Lush Life arrives several years after this duo’s debut EP. The wait was entirely worth it. (May 18)
Stream: “Ingenue,” Chelsea,” “Night Bus Blue”