Rochelle Jordan Pushes Her Artistry into Bolder Territory on 'Play with the Changes'

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 28, 2021

As labels courted Rochelle Jordan and primary collaborator KLSH in the time following her 2014 solo debut, 1021, the two concurrently became friends and collaborators of Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar. Across the producers' solo outings and projects including JETS and Sepalcure, Jordan's airy vocals and incisive delivery have remained a highlight, growing more potent with each team-up.

It's an arrangement that is now explored at album length on Play with the Changes, as Jordan brings her closest conspirators together to further push her artistry into even bolder, more adventurous territory. The musical blueprint of the Scarborough-raised, L.A.-based vocalist's second LP maps hip-hop, house, pop, garage and drum 'n' bass — all deftly blended by her lineup of electro-fusionists — to set up Jordan to tread vibrant and vulnerable emotional territory on her most colourful, confident recordings to date.

Where 1021 took its time ramping up to quick tempos, Play with the Changes wastes none, as the endorphin rush of "LOVE U GOOD" is ushered in by a twitchy breakbeat, filtered keys and bass smears, as Jordan's conversational words of comfort float atop it all. The garage-inspired "GOT EM" raises the stakes as Jordan takes the wheel to weave through knocking rhythm and melody alike, reminding herself every so often to "push it to the next lane" out of self-love. "NEXT 2 YOU" and "ALL ALONG" both revel in excitable feelings with production to match; the former with its yearning synth stabs and shifty percussion, and the latter with a new jack snare that bounces lightly enough to avoid sounding dated.

Play with the Changes stacks its soul-baring moments in its middle portion, led by "BROKEN STEEL." Over an affecting chord progression, Jordan cleverly twists pronunciation in detailing the pressures of living up to the "strong Black woman" trope — metaphorically, one who is "super tough and made of silver stuff." She charts this internal dialogue in the chorus: "Better shut my mouth / If I say my feelings then they'll say that I'm too loud / Blend into the crowd / Once they see my colour then they'll think that I'm too proud." Farrah Fawx — who had her 2019 single "Never Thought" helmed by KLSH and Edgar — turns in a nimble verse "with the weight of the world on [her] hips" sharing her own struggles on the LP's lone guest spot.

"NOTHING LEFT" works a breathy vocal sample, robotic percussion and heavily filtered synths to create the sound of exhaustion, as Jordan sings, "I drown myself in you, there is no life here." "LAY" forgoes drums entirely for further lyrical emphasis as Jordan wrestles with police brutality. In fearing for the safety and security of a loved one away from home, she pushes her range in the chorus to sing "You're safe with me when I'm watching you sleep."

At times when Jordan's attitudes are more ambivalent, she writes from a point of awareness in making sure she isn't the one getting played. On "ALREADY," she pushes back on a lover's about-face in cool, rhythmic fashion, giving a final kiss-off with an even icier outro rap. With "SOMETHING," Jordan "[plays] this game like a poker deck," leaving an either-or entanglement up to luck of the draw. The detailed "COUNT IT" soundtracks Jordan tucking cash under the mattress for her own safekeeping, betting you'll be mesmerized by a chorus that evokes falling bills, in which she affirms, "If you ever leave, I might be lonely / But if you ever leave, I won't be begging." Edgar's penchant for wonderfully warped synths and metallic synthesis drive his daring CHEETAH BEND album from earlier this year, on which Jordan also stars.

Play with the Changes is a testament to both the friendship and musical flexibility Jordan has found, and continues to build with all involved; bonds that carry the album's range of emotions and electronics beyond dance floors to heads and hearts effortlessly.
(Royal Mountain / Young Art)

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