Anderson .Paak - Malibu (B+)

The opening track, “The Bird” tells me everything I need to know about this album. It’s going to be soulful, it’s going to have heart, it’s going to be something you’re going to want to invest your time in. Melodic and jazzy, it calms you down, sits you back, and sets the tone for the next hour. Before we get into this, let’s take things back a bit. I first came upon Anderson back in 2012 when he released his debut album, O.B.E. Vol. 1, under the moniker Breezy Lovejoy. Two years later, now working as Anderson .Paak, he released Venice, one of my favorite albums of 2014. He muses on life in Southern California, delivering it through a smooth R&B and lively hip hop sound. Now on to the present...

Consistently diverse, even at 16 tracks, Malibu never feels too long. He draws inspirations from a handful of genres but always puts his stamp on it, which is no easy feat. Jazz and soul are the biggest influences here from a music standpoint but his style and flow are still very much rooted in R&B/ hip hop. People who loved Leon Bridges album last year need to listen to this. I had a number of friends call and text me saying that I ranked his (Leon's) album way to low in my Top 50 (I put it at 41) but it’s albums like this that force that. Leon’s album was great, don’t get me wrong, but it gave us nothing new. It was just copying a style that hasn’t been prevalent in awhile and while I love that, it was not original. Albums like Malibu take those same feelings, those same vibes, and make them their own, fusing it with sounds and tones from other eras, adding a unique approach to an old favorite. Leon’s album was an escape, something you put on and just ride. It felt good. And while, yes, we need that, it didn’t challenge us, it didn’t further anything. What Anderson did here was ambitious, and I hope he reaps the benefits of that. Ultimately, and this is the best compliment I can give, this album reminds of what I get from Janelle Monae’s work. In my honest opinion no one is close to doing what she’s doing, and while the scope here is smaller, I feel her in his work. He may or may not be influenced by what she does but like her, he's built something that channels both the old and the new, combining them seamlessly. He’s created not only my favorite album so far this year but what I suspect will also be one of my favorites at the end of the year as well. Naturally I think that this album warrants the full listen, most albums do, but I first want to get you invested. With that in mind, here are two singles that I think represent the attitude, feel, and heart of the album. Listen to it, take it in, let it consume you. It won’t get old.