Erika de Casier - Essentials (A Live Review)
Erika de Casier - Essentials (A Live Review)
— Written by Freddie Williamson
Erika de Casier delivers the most standout contemporary R&B album I’ve heard. Styles mixed of G-funk and classic R&B with smoky, super warm beats and vocals so familiar it really feels “like going to the club with an old friend” as written in Vice. The whole album is perfectly poised and truly is the ‘essentials’ you’d expect of a Greatest Hits after a stellar career. Definitely recommend listening from the top to bottom, it really makes a difference and makes the project shine like the font of the album cover.
Dive in and take a read through my initial thoughts and feelings towards each of the tracks, also you can stream it right at the bottom of this story:
The Flow: Really interesting opener that almost introduces it as something other than a R&B album, like it’s got more haze and substance than say, a stereotypical, radio ready release. Could easily see a DJ Central ambient mix of this cut. Does well in building the anticipation for the rest of the album!
Do My Thing: Sounds like that cat that will accept your love if you wanna pet it yet has her own plans and will follow them when she’s bored of you. Can immediately hear the ‘90s MTV influence, Aaliyah type steez with that real frank attitude: “If you’re not down, get out of my way”.
Good Time: Banging 808’s make way for such an eerily robotic chorus, which in turn gives way to Erika’s vocals which is so straight up, no bullshit, and that what’s so appealing. Just really really really (good time)... well executed ideas.
Little Bit: Every track almost drifts off to somewhere completely different but returns you back right before Erika comes on and just body rolls on beat. Only four tracks in and it feels like she’s already a star. So comfortable behind the mic and conveys the feeling so well… Whoever mixed this album (El Trick?) nailed it, so warm, so bouncy, so crisp, nothing out of place, feels polished like the font on the cover.
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Intimate: The production is like a jazz trained pianist fell in love with Dr. Dre but is almost more smoked out, has that real west coast flavour. Shoutout El Trick! Erika keeps it so real it’s brilliant, like, what else you gonna be doing in that room alone? (See music video below)
Puppy Love: Sounds like a skeptical assessment of someone who could looks like they may be “too good to be true” and in the end had no choice but to give in, but in no way regrets that either. Kinda feels like she’s talking about someone she doesn’t quite trust yet. Hella Jhene Aiko vibes on this one but still maintains originality and integrity.
Photo of You: Wait, Erykha Badu? Window Seat? Damn! Influences come from all over but are brought together by the honesty and realism of her lyrics. Definitely feels familiar like an album you’re rediscovering decades later but most definitely has feet firmly in the present, accurately representing her undeniably contemporary sound. A slight change in pace with this one, which sets us up for What U Wanna Do?
*Side Note: El Trick handles all the production alongside Erika herself, as well as cameos from DJ Sports and GlobalKirk. Family affair!
What U Wanna Do?: First track with a darker energy, sounds like the only slight stall of pace but even then, it’s strong enough to stand alone but just gets overshadowed by the height of the other songs (which may have been purposeful because it’s also the darkest song on the album, a kind of turning point). I don’t even think it’s a slower track, just the first moment to take a breath and process that cannonball of hits right off the back. Sheeesh!
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Rainy: Sounds so nostalgic, almost weighing up regrets and looking back at things that could’ve been done differently, which adds to the depth of a really well crafted narrative of this album. It even made me think it was raining outside as it’s a typically overcast Edinburgh day. Rainy is the best response to What U Wanna Do?, another reason to listen from top to bottom, the tracklisting seems so considered, it’s a treat.
Space: She’s got such a way of communicating what the beat is saying, it’s such beautiful interplay and makes her lyrics just hit different. You can hear her pleading to clarify the confusion, it’s so apparent yet she carries on like “well I’m not gonna waste my time if you’re gonna stand there on that irrational tip”. Sounds like she’s trying to get through to someone who’s given into their own insecurities, but in the end just has to focus on herself rather than keep trying to fix it.
Story of My Life: It’s such a great closer. Unapologetic, calling it exactly how she sees it, navigating the ups and downs with such defiance... with the key change at the end?! Ahhhhh sold. Sold. After checking Spotify to make sure that was the end of the album (because how do you follow those eleven tracks?) we get an absolute nugget in the form of DJ Sports & El Trick, with a club flip of Intimate.
Intimate (Club Mix): It’s the cherry on top... The warmth of it! Banging. Actually, the first time I was introduced to Erika was through the sensational Drive (DJ Sports Club Mix) from DJ Central & Erika’s 2017 DriveEP. Rolling drum breaks that sounds like it was played at the back of a smoked out jazz club, exercising a drum workout while the club is closing and staff are mopping the floors. It really felt like a proper ‘bonus’ track that will undoubtedly get a lot of plays and be the club ambassador for Essentials.
I went straight back and listened to it right through twice and really feels like the strongest debut I’ve come across in recent times. The whole delivery of the album is superb, from the visual identity, to the mix, to the videos, to the delicacy of Erika’s vocals, to literally ticking off essential album tracks: the new love, the sexy joint, the heartbreak, but forgot about him pretty quick, and that’s how it goes, but I’m still down for a proper dance. It commits to the whole idea of ‘essentials’ and really feels like a collection of songs taken from an array of previous albums that sound even better next to each other than standing alone.
Intimate (El Trick & DJ Sport Club Mix) do. you. get. me… hit after hit after hit!
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