Album of the Week #3: Modal Soul – Nujabes

2005

This album certainly isn’t bad, but I’ve listened to it about three times through and I can’t get into it. I don’t know what it is. The ingredients are good: well-constructed beats, an eclectic range of influences including jazz, hip-hop, rock and some Latin thrown in there, some solid enough vocal performances from guest artists – but it just doesn’t do it for me.

What bugs me about Modal Soul is that it seems caught between two zones. On the one hand, there are the kind of chilled, largely instrumental albums that I find perfect for writing or drinking beer (I really like some of Tommy Guerrero’s stuff, for example). And there are other albums I put on when I want to get up and dance. With this one I find it’s slightly too hefty to be a background to getting stuff done, but not interesting or energetic enough to be the focus of attention. By the third or fourth track it really starts to sag, sounding more like a collection of half-finished ideas and demos than the finished article. It won’t stop me from exploring Nujabes’ other stuff. As much as Modal Soul didn’t grab me, his talent is clear and it wouldn’t be right to bash the album just because I didn’t like it. It might be that I need to be in the right frame of mind to really ‘feel’ the album, and maybe if I revisit it at the right time I’ll change my mind.

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