We get a lot of records sent to us here at The A.V. Club. Fortunately, we end up liking some of them. In Playlisted, we share our latest recommendations.
Album: Single On A Saturday Night by Jade Alston (available for free download at jadealston.com)
Press play if you like: Beguiling, smoky-voiced R&B singers in the mold of Toni Braxton (but with none of the adult-contemporary stuffiness); forlorn, day-dreaming soul music; prolonged sighs.
Some background: A one-time VJ for a Philadelphia music-video show, 24-year-old singer Jade Alston quietly self-released her debut mixtape in the very last days of 2011, a banner year for R&B mixtapes that also saw sterling debuts from Frank Ocean, Nikkiya, and Jhené Aiko. Like many mixtapes from R&B upstarts with big-label aspirations, Single On A Saturday Night sometimes plays more like a talent reel than an album—Alston reworks Lil Wayne’s “Bill Gates” and covers Etta James’ “Sunday Kind Of Love,” and is a little too eager to demonstrate her range—but her warm, husky voice entrances throughout, and her originals introduce a songwriter with a conflicted view of relationships. She laughs off her romantic failures even as she wallows in heartbreak, and she longs for a fabulous man (or even a not-so fabulous one) to sweep her off her feet, fully aware of how ridiculous the fantasy sounds. The unspoken question of “Am I better off alone?” hangs over the whole mixtape, but she never comes to a clear verdict.
Try this: On Alston’s most downcast numbers, her lovesickness spurs some deep soul searching, but on “Missing You Lately” the singer spins those feelings into a fun, waiting-by-the-phone pop song.