In the first 30 seconds of “Higher”, the lead-off track on Fly Moon Royalty‘s debut album, the music bounces from indie-friendly synths to Latin percussion groove to electro-pop riffs, like Janelle Monae crossed with MGMT. Those disparate threads coalesce perfectly under singer AdraBoo’s soulful vocals, steeped in old school R&B with a rock edginess that betrays her Seattle roots. Thanks to groups like The Weeknd, and continued efforts from the Dap Tone posse, we’ve recently seen R&B find itself comfortably in bed with the indie rock sound. Count Fly Moon Royalty as another step forward for modern soul music.
At times there’s a backwards gaze on this record, such as the raucous backbeat and retro swing feel of “Roxy” and “Lemonade”. The latter goes even further down the neo-nostalgia pathway, with handclaps, piano, and glockenspiel evoking the Motown of the Supremes and Temptations. But Fly Moon Royalty just as easily delves into 21st-century, synth-heavy electro-pop on “Android Love”.
AdraBoo’s vocal lines are somewhere in the quagmire between hip-hop, R&B, and rock, working with the melodies of soul but the fast-paced rhythms of rap. On “Higher”, her verses move with a prosody and rhythm lively enough to be exciting and interesting, while still contrasting with the full-voiced chorus. It’s an effect that’s replicated often throughout the record, and always to great effect.
On the flipside, the album’s major detraction is the seemingly non-sequitur rapped verses from DJ, producer, and songwriter Action Jackson (shouldn’t that name have been retired years ago?). At best, his rapping is just average; at worst, it reminds me of the equally jarring hip-hop verse on Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. Luckily, his intelligent musicality comes out in the original grooves and creative samples that form the backbones of these stellar songs.
Essential Tracks: “Higher”, “Lemonade”, “Commuter Train”, and “In the Woods”