Soul music is having quite a nice summer, and you don’t need to look any further for some of its best harmonies than the tracklist of Nikki Lerner’s incredible new album Human Too, currently out everywhere that quality indie music can be found. Driven by its potent vocals and raging grooves, Human Too’s best songs – like its title track, the passionate “What I Really Meant to Say” and live “Welcome to the New” – are anything but one-dimensional. Lerner gives us one potential hit after another here and, simply put, sounds like an elite player if I’ve ever heard one before.
Though they were recorded live, “Longing,” “Home” and “Love Again” show us a Nikki Lerner who is seemingly just as comfortable in this context – if not a little more – as she is in the studio-born “Colors,” “Solomon’s Song” or “Falling.” She’s got an easygoing stride no matter which of these tracks we’re listening to, and when taking into account how wide-ranging and versatile a lot of the material (and the venues) are in Human Too, this tracklist feels like all the more of a testament to her talents as an artist.
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There are definitely some not so subtle jazz influences in “Strength,” “Longing” and the title cut in this record that I would love to hear Lerner expand upon a little further in future recordings, but in the context of this effort, they’re partly what make this album feel like the diverse fire-starter it undeniably is. This artist has such an amazingly multifaceted musical profile that there’s no caging her many-splendored melodies once they come pouring out of the stereo speakers in droves, and while she gave her fans reason to have high expectations with this latest release, she surpasses everything I’d hoped to hear out of her for sure.
The arrangement of the songs in Human Too allows for a fluidity in the material that I haven’t heard a whole lot of when reviewing mainstream pop and soul lately, and to some extent, it reduces the contrast between the live and studio recordings in a positive fashion. This really does feel like two albums in one, but there isn’t a major shift in tone as we move from “Falling” into “Welcome to the New.” Call it gilded producing if you will, but from my perspective, the continuity in this LP starts and ends with Nikki Lerner herself.
Whether or not she had anything left to prove to audiences and critics alike in this release isn’t up for debate – prior to Human Too, Nikki Lerner was already a shining star of the underground, but with the release of this third album, I think she solidifies her status as one of the best vocalists around on either side of the dial right now. There isn’t a stitch of filler that will require your hitting the skip button when listening to this record – if anything, I would recommend hearing it all the way through without interruption, as that offers the best experience any pop enthusiast can get ahold of this month.
by Cassandra King