Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Jessie Ware That! Feels Good!


That … feels good! That feels … good! That! feels! good! Jessie Ware’s fifth studio album begins with a chorus intoning its title in various degrees of breathiness, an ecstatic introduction to the world that Ware has built up for herself these past few years. She’s fully committed to the bit. After being called a modern dance diva for a decade, she has made good on that promise, embraced all the theatricality that comes with such a designation. If her last album was slightly tentative (What’s Your Pleasure?, she asked), her new one is emphatically horny — a celebration of life’s most carnal desires, packaged in sumptuous elegance. “Pleasure is a right!” she shouts on that opening track, a nod to the album that kicked off this exciting new chapter for Ware. It’s deliciously fun, a doubling down on the sort of music that’s going to go ahead and let you let loose to something as ludicrous as one of the title track’s many hooks: “I got something I can’t describe/ A little something to get you high/ Sugar ‘n’ salt it, lick that lime/ Lick, lick, lick, lick that, get in line.”

2020’s What’s Your Pleasure? ended up as part of a wave of pop music that embraced the dance floor in all its glittering possibility, unintentionally but fortuitously coming at a time when it was not feasible to be in those spaces. It was immaculate, a jumpstart to Ware’s career just when it (and she) was seeming to flag. That! Feels Good! is even better to these ears, pushing her in ever more expansive new-old directions. “It was not about repeating What’s Your Pleasure?” Ware said in a recent interview, bringing up that album’s closing track as her new LP’s guiding light: “‘Remember Where You Are‘ was the starting point of a more live, luscious, groove-led sound.” And That! Feels Good! fits the bill: lush, intricate, with big arrangements emboldened by a big voice to match.

The album started taking shape in James Ford’s London studio (cheekily called Studio 53), with some of the same braintrust that was behind What’s Your Pleasure? (Danny Parker and Shungudzo Kuyimba) video conferencing in. Ware has talked about how that virtuality felt unnatural for songs meant to be so tactile. But even after they were able to meet up in person, a chance COVID infection forced them apart yet again. It’s perhaps fitting for the music here, though, which is achingly, desperately physical. “Begin Again,” one of the tracks that came out of those sessions, channels those recording frustrations into a frothing chorus: “Why do all my realities take over all my dreams? Why does the purest love get filtered through machines?”

This time around, Ware also worked with producer Stuart Price, who has been responsible for diva turns from Madonna (Confessions On A Dance Floor) and Kylie Minogue (Aphrodite) and was a piece of the puzzle on Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, which led the commercial crop of retro pandemic-era dance music. “Free Yourself” and “Pearls,” two singles that they crafted together, are the type of songs that make you go damn — like, how even? They’re perfectly constructed pop tracks, intoxicating and insistent, impossible not to get swept up in. If you’re a Ware fan, you’ve probably heard them by now — you know them, you love them. They’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to That! Feels Good!

“I knew that I wanted to make a more live, energetic record that nodded to Talking Heads, ESG and B-52’s but didn’t want to turn my back on What’s Your Pleasure? because I was so excited by the reaction to it,” Ware recently said. “I just didn’t want to replicate it.” That intention comes to bear on the album’s back half as Ware dips her toes into the waters of pure confection. It starts with “Beautiful People,” an injection of energy that has her talk-singing about being surrounded by opulence, and Ware’s invitation into this world is wholly sincere: “You can come with all your friends, bring everyone.” A party hasn’t sounded so tempting since Robyn hit us up to go to the beach.

There are so many moments on That! Feels Good! that make me grin like a fucking idiot. The only contemporary artist that comes close to doing what Ware is doing is Meg Remy, whose U.S. Girls project is more satirical in nature but taps into the same tingling pleasure centers. It astounds me how two artists who started out so differently from each other have ended up in the same sonic place, but here we are. Where Remy has become more strait-laced in her pop intentions — especially on this year’s excellent Bless This Mess — Ware has made herself slightly goofier, more eager to embrace the absurdities in her dance music.

“Shake The Bottle” starts with a litany of men who have done the narrator of the song wrong. “Jimmy lies, Jimmy cries, Jimmy’s just like the other guys.” (Big year for shithead Jimmys in pop music.) Ware goes on to take some boys to task, but she also provides some instructions, the way to treat her right, make her bottle pop: “Just promise not to start it and stop it once you’ve fired up the rocket.” On “Freak Me Now,” Ware glides along on tinny insistences to bring your body over here, put your ass on that floor. That! Feels Good! is filled with songs where sex and the club are intertwined — one leads to the other, and that leads to ecstasy. Even when she slips back into ballad mode on “Hello Love,” she sounds breathless, sensual: “It feels so good to see ya.”

Ware closes That! Feels Good! out with a stunner that boasts horn stomps and a groove that goes so hard it should be illegal. It’s all about “These Lips” — they can turn milk to gold, they can soothe body and soul, they’ll take you to places you never thought you’d go, they’re wanted in a hundred countries (maybe more!!). Ware sings all this with the same passion she exudes on the rest of the album — it’s a winking gesture, knowingly ridiculous. And if, like she did with What’s Your Pleasure?, she takes the naughty effervescence of those closing moments and spins it off into her next album? We’re all the better for it. That feels good.

That! Feels Good! is out 4/28 via PMR/EMI.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Smokey Robinson’s GASMS
• The National’s First Two Pages Of Frankenstein
• Jack Harlow’s Jackman
• Avalon Emerson & The Charm’s Avalon Emerson & The Charm
• Bill Orcutt’s Jump On It
• Susanne Sundfør’s Blómi
• Indigo De Souza’s All Of This Will End
• Mike Dean’s 4:23
• Bernice’s Cruisin’
• Braids’ Euphoric Recall
• Enforced’s War Remains
• Washer’s Improved Means To Deteriorated Ends
• Lisa/Liza’s Breaking And Mending
• JFDR’s Museum
• Joy Oladokun’s Proof Of Life
• Tiny Ruins’ Ceremony
• Country Westerns’ Forgive The City
• Matthewdavid’s Mycelium Music
• Kip Moore’s DAMN LOVE
• Glen Matlock’s Consequences Coming
• Robyn Hitchcock’s Life After Infinity
• John Andrews And The Yawns’ Love For The Underdog
• Neil Gaiman + FourPlay String Quartet’s Signs Of Life
• Don Letts’ Outta Sync
• Megafauna’s Olympico
• Vamachara’s No Roses On My Grave
• Gabriels’ Angels And Queens part two
• Joseph’s The Sun
• Tony Shhnow’s Love Streak
• Scenario’s When All Is Said And Done
• Say Anything’s Psyche!
• Josh Ritter’s Spectral Lines
• Matt Maltese’s Driving Just To Drive
• Plastic Presidents’ Good Times Can’t Last
• Lonnie Liston Smith’s JID017
• Ava Vegas’ Desert Songs
• Single Mothers’ Roy
• Bebe Rexha’s Bebe
• YUNGMORPHEUS’ From Whence It Came
• Rickie Lee Jones’s Pieces Of Treasure
• Paul B. Cutler’s Les Fleurs
• Diplo’s Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley: Chapter 2 — Swamp Savant
• Skerryvore’s Tempus
• Y La Bamba’s Lucha
• Zoon’s Bekka Ma’iingan
• Tommy Emmanuel’s Accomplice Two
• Belgrado’s Intra Apogeum
• The Damned’s Darkdelic
• Mat Kerekes’ You Look Like A Stranger
• Spotlights’ Alchemy For The Dead
• Various Artists’s I Am A Pilgrim: Doc Watson At 100
• Superheaven’s Jar (10 Year Anniversary Edition)
• Anna Of The North’s Crazy Life Deluxe
• Cradle Of Filth’s Trouble And Their Double Lives live album
• SEVENTEEN’s FML mini-album
• Beach House’s Become EP
• Annie Blackman’s Bug EP
• Moreish Idols’s Lock Eyes & Collide EP
• Shangri-Lass’s Over & Over EP
• Overgrow’s This Will All End EP
• Lunar Chamber’s Shambhallic Vibrations EP
• Harriette’s I Heart The Internet EP
• OK Cool’s fawn EP

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