In a sentence:
Breezy, intelligent takes on late Nineties-early Noughties MTV R&B/pop make Erika De Casier’s ‘Sensational’ a riveting listen.
Erika De Casier may have initially seemed like an incongruous signing for 4AD, an indie giant known for guitar-driven dream-pop above all else, but the label’s quiet but bold expansion into hip-hop, R&B and pop has been paying dividends for the last few years. It’s when you actually listen to her second full-length album Sensational that it actually makes perfect sense. With gauzy, hazy production and sensual vocals that rarely register above a whisper, combined with the languid mosaics of beats and light-touch instrumentation, it’s exactly what you’d expect a ‘4AD artist does R&B/pop’ to sound like.
But this description alone would do De Casier a disservice. Drawing on her formative influences of watching late Nineties/early Noughties MTV, Sensational intelligently processes the kinds of sounds we associate with Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah and TLC and recasts them in a way that feels retro yet entirely contemporary. Lyrically, De Casier builds on the relationship-centred themes of her 2019 debut Essentials, but views them this time through a lens of female empowerment and independence, essaying the trials and tribulations of dating in narratives that refuse to cast their protagonists as victims. These songs entertainingly reject egotistical chat-up lines and materialistic sleazeballs. With no track exceeding the four-minute mark, Sensational breezes past in an enjoyable and engaging listening experience.
The Nineties-esque production is immediately noticeable from opener ‘Drama’, the R&B beat underpinning an intricate, crystalline guitar loop. A few tracks aside, such as the Eurodance production of the excellent ‘Call Me Anytime’ and the blissful, beatless electronica of ‘Insult Me’ that recalls a Café Del Mar-style chillout compilation, Sensational resides largely within the same emotional space throughout. The sultry, spacious ‘Polite’, in which De Casier adopts a sprechsegang approach, contains Latin influences and comes off like an update of Sade. The fluid and alien ‘No Butterflies, No Nothing’ is like some lost Timbaland production, while the strident, Tricky-influenced trip-hop of ‘Friendly’ and the neat flourishes of UK garage that adorn ‘Busy’ are also highlights in a consistently delightful listen. (8/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to Sensational by Erika De Casier here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: 4AD, Ed Biggs, Erika De Casier, Sensational
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