Wondaland presents The Eephus

James Patrick Carraghan

James Patrick Carraghan is an award-winning activist, writer, librarian and student at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He spends his free time gardening, hording books and flirting. You can follow him on tumblr at http://thelibrarynevercloses.tumblr.com/

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I’ll start this review with what should be the ending: if this is just a tease of what we can expect from Wondaland Records in the future, we are in for a major musical rejuvenation. If you want to extend your summer vacation a few more weeks, this is the perfect way of doing it. The album is full of life, energy and most importantly original voices.

Janelle Monae’s independent record label, Wondaland Records, has produced its first EP, The Eephus, which dropped in mid-August. Monae’s video for her contribution, ‘Yoga’, has so far received the most attention of all the songs on the album, but more on that later.

The Eephus – a baseball term for game-changer – lives up to the name, showcasing some of the new voices signed to Wondaland Records. Some, like the duo Deep Cotton, have worked with Monae on her solo albums, while others are getting their first major exposure on this album.

Each track is fantastic. Taken together the six tracks on the iTunes EP (five tracks and a remix) form a coherent whole, showing the range of the artists involved. Each song manages to be strong enough to be the lead single—for the first time in a while I can say here is an album without low points.

Kicking off the album is Deep Cotton’s ‘Let’s Get Caught’, which brings a neo-soul energy and Prince-inspired vocals to the opening of the album. It’s a sound which is both retro and futuristic at the same time, moving the listener to become a dancer.

‘Classic Man’ by Jidenna has been viewed as a take on the subject matter and style of ‘Fancy’ (which is sampled in the song – with proper credit given). ‘Classic Man’ is a mirror image of Azalea’s breakout song, taking on a lot of the same material – materialism, consumerism, drug culture – and doing it in a way which is frankly more enjoyable and original.

The bonus track on the iTunes version of the album is a remix of the song featuring Kendrick Lamar. The remix shines a new light on the song to the point that the song seems to take on a different existence. Rather than sounding repetitive, as many remixes do, having both versions of the song on the EP expands on the talents of the artists in the Wondaland collective.

Monae’s ‘Yoga’ features the artist’s first foray into sexualised lyrics and a ‘mainstream’ sound. ‘Yoga’ in the hands of other performers would be comical, but Monae’s aesthetic goes perfectly with the subject matter. The call to arms of ‘You cannot police me / So get off my areola’ brings both the serious political consciousness and sense of play from Monae’s Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) to the song.

Some of Monae’s fans have been upset by the change, but honestly this is a new side of Monae which is worth exploring. That this song could have been so vapid and dull has been remarked upon by multiple people, yet the fact that it is not reminds us just how lucky we are to have Janelle Monae in our lives.

‘Going Nowhere’ by St. Beauty shines through – the vocals are a cross between Marina and the Diamonds and Lorde, with a stripped-down, back-to-basics approach which works quite well. The slowdown from ‘Yoga’ gives us a sexy, moody song full of young angst and fatally flawed summertime romance.

‘iKnow’ by Roman GianArthur closes out the EP with a torch song, filled with 80s synth and soft, tender vocals. When the song ended, I found myself incredibly saddened that the EP was over, put to rest by this delightful slow-dance track.

One of the best elements of The Eephus is that each track features multiple members of the Wondaland collective, which presents a diverse range of sounds while also presenting a consistency to the overall project. By the end of the EP, the songs are familiar, ready for a second listen, and readymade favourites.

I for one cannot wait to hear what each of these artists is going to do next. A smashing beginning for Wondaland Records.

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