Me'shell NdegéOcello's uncompromising nature and unpredictable artistic impulses have led her down some unlikely paths, but she's been on an amazing roll in recent years. A smooth, jazzy meditation on infidelity, 1999's Bitter mixed messy personal drama and beautifully accessible arrangements with towering results, while its unjustly less-heralded follow-up, last year's Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape, sprawled audaciously and cantankerously through the thorny politics of race, gender, sexual orientation, and more. The last adjective that could ever describe NdegéOcello's music is "dull," but that's just the damnation to apply to the new Comfort Woman, along with "inexplicable," "meandering," and "inexplicably meandering." A flimsy mishmash of listless lite-reggae ("Fellowship," "Love Song #1") and formless space-rock ("Love Song #2," "Love Song #3"), Comfort Woman's love songs lack the coherent unifying philosophy that allows the album's predecessors to resonate on more than one level. The disc's best track, the brooding "Liliquoi Moon," would have fit comfortably on Bitter, but the rest of Comfort Woman gets mired in routine come-ons and rote sex jams, with only the occasional shift in mood or unexpected hook to break up the monotony. With her track record, NdegéOcello would seem incapable of this sort of lifeless misstep. But given that she's made a career of defying expectations–even, as it happens, lofty ones–maybe that's the point she's trying to make here.
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