SZA Z

SZA Z
8
Trying to delineate the sound of SZA's new album Z is perhaps a futile exercise, chasing rainbows and all that. The Maplewood, New Jersey native (real name Solana Rowe) and latest addition to the Cali-based Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) roster readily describes herself as "weird" with contrasting musical tastes — Bjork, Animal Collective, Miles Davis, Sade — and the full-length album runs along an idiosyncratic electro R&B, soul-pop vibe.

The crossover potential within these ten tracks is huge; breezy, light yet commanding vocals hit with impact and stick in your cranium long after the 43-minute runtime is through. Production by notables Toro y Moi, Mac Miller, DJ Dahi and Emile Hayne reinforce Z's syrupy soul electro infrastructure, while guest spots from Chicago's Chance The Rapper and TDE lablemates Isaiah Rashad and Kendrick Lamar buttress joints like "Babylon" and "Childs Play," respectively.

Blissfulness is the order of the day on "Sweet November," "Julia" is a slice of futurist pop and trademark Toro y Moi melodies reveal themselves on "HiiiJack," while the pop-oriented "Shattered Ring" hits with haunting vocals and Ennio Morricone-styled guitar tabs and blows away any perceived artistic notions of what SZA is all about. Rowe is still growing as an artist and songwriter — lyrics like "Your skin taste likes Brussels sprouts I swear," or "Stuck in Nintendo, get the controller/Street Fighters and such/I'll finish him" aren't quite as crafty as they were perhaps envisioned — but the general quality is enough to make listeners roll with the soulgroove regardless.

Z is a quality beginning for a beguiling new artist with a fresh futurist sound. (Top Dawg)