Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Soul & R&B Albums

4. Kelis
(Ninja Tune)

It's tempting to overload on the culinary references when discussing Kelis's first new album in four years. After all, she named a previous album Tasty, and her biggest hit was the inescapable "Milkshake." Food has no shortage of lip-smacking song titles, but also finds Kelis reflectively musing on her life as a daughter, lover, wife and mother. Evidently, gastronomic indulgences are the way to Kelis's heart.

Producer Dave Sitek draws equally on Southern soul and Afrobeat for brassy nouveau vintage arrangements, allowing Kelis to neatly sidestep the inscrutability that dogged her artistic past as merely a raw Neptunes protégé or Nas's ex-wife via her own raspy, wizened voice. Here, the songs are what shine — and what tasty morsels they are. (Del Cowie)