Pass the Aux 003: Souled Out by Jhené Aiko
a swirling, soothing salve served over serene beats
Hey, I’m Brandon and welcome to mint\brand – my weekly canvas to be human, explore my brand + music obsessions & share them with you.
In Pass the Aux, I spotlight my favorite ‘head-to-toe’ albums – records worth savoring from start to finish. Each issue ends with an amuse-bouche of new (& old) heat that I can’t stop listening to.
Listening notes: The feeling of a warm coddle you remember from being a baby, being huddled around a warm campfire with your spiritual besties
Perfect for: Late night strolls by a body of water; when you’re feeling lost & stranded
In need of soothing
If this past week has been particularly depleting for you (as it’s been for me), I hope this aural salve helps.
Jhené Aiko’s debut studio album, Souled Out – a follow-up to her 2013 Sail Out EP & 2011 Sailing Souls mixtape – has been a safe harbor of serenity for tumultuous times in my past.
For those who may be just be discovering Jhené, let me also suggest Bed Peace (feat. Childish Gambino) & her feature on Drake’s From Time. Heart snatched? In love with our queen? Excellent, now you’re on our level. Let’s proceed.
Fitting like a glove
Jhené’s silky voice floats above the dreamy beats layered upon acoustic guitar riffs, resulting in a most healing listen – one that brings to life the effervescent, aquatic world captured above.
Souled Out’s production embraces Jhené’s vocals with such effortless harmony. My favorite way I’ve heard this described is from Flume – for his sophomore LP, Skin, featuring the likes of Tove Lo, Vince Staples & Little Dragon, he described his approach to producing such that “the whole piece of music fits the vocal like a glove.”
Nowhere else is this more on display than tracks #2-4: W.A.Y.S., To Love & Die (feat. Cocaine 80s), & Spotless Mind. This also happens to be one of my favorite three-track progressions in any album.
Fall 2014. My 2nd year as a Pre-K teacher had just wrapped. It was brutal. I was battered down, a little broken, mostly lost.
It’s easy to now reflect on those years and characterize them as this satisfying & fulfilling experience. They absolutely are – but the reality was that at the time, I was incredibly depleted and wondering, “Where do I go from here? What the hell am I doing?!”
Not surprisingly, these are still questions I’m asking myself today. Maybe you are too.
I clearly remember my first Souled Out listen during a night drive from West LA to Hermosa Beach (side note: this is the best time to listen to music). long the coastal highway, it was just the moonlight reflecting off the ocean waves, the album, and my thoughts.
That fall was filled with many cups of Seaworth’s “Single Fin Sludge”. Taco Tuesdays at Taco Mesa. First Thursdays at the Laguna Beach Art Walk pairing free gallery visits and generous pours of wine.
I love how listening to this album takes me back to those oddly specific memories. I’m sure you have songs that do the same for you.
For the entirety of Souled Out, I feel as if I’m observing Jhené’s personal transformation while also navigating the rocky cliffs of my own journey in parallel. Cliffs I’ve mastered in the past as well as those in front of me now. I find in periods of instability, knowing you aren’t alone is often the only solace I can hold onto to make it through.
Music is quite helpful for this.
The big three
Jhené blows the doors open on the album, hurling you into a turbulent concoction of bass and distorted guitar riffs. A beat you might just mistake for a Travis Scott joint. Serenading you with details of a life unfamiliar to you. Aptly, the first track puts you in Limbo Limbo Limbo.
From the stormy seas of Limbo, you make your way to the safe harbor of W.A.Y.S. Why Aren’t You Smiling – beautiful. Soothing, melodic, resonant.
You’re eavesdropping on Jhené’s conversation with an angel – the message is so human, so familiar, you adopt it for yourself:
Why aren't you smiling? Why aren't you smiling?
Life can get wild when, you caught in the whirl wind
Lost in the whirl wind, you’re chasing the wind
You gotta understand
There's really no end, there's really no beginning
There's really no real, there's really no pretending
There's really no fail, there's really no winning
You borrow them for your own healing. Slowly, but surely. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, this song’s for you.
To Love & Die brings us to a fierce war. It’s a bad-bitch beat with vocals brimming with steely resolve to “live for the love, die for the love.” The track closes with a chaotic crescendo, bringing us to the timeless Spotless Mind – my favorite of the album.
I melt within the first 2 seconds, every listen, without fail. It instantly puts me at ease.
Change is inevitable
Why hold on to what you have to let go of?
If the warmest, safest hug could manifest into a song, this would be it.
Even now, I’m smiling.
Flavor of the Month: Covers
I love a good cover. Especially when you have artists paying homage from wildly different genres.
And I listened to a lot of ‘em last month! Maybe I was subconsciously grasping for happier times from the past 🥴. Anyway, my top 3:
Redbone (triple j Like a Version) by Northeast Party House (3:37, 2017) – If you recognize the drums, you’ve realized these madmen cooked up an LCD Soundsystem x Childish Gambino crossover – blending Dance Yrself Clean with the original track. They did not have to go that hard but they did.
1901 (triple j Like a Version) by Petit Biscuit (3:11, 2018) – We love any excuse to listen to more Phoenix. An electronic cover, by the yung French king Petit Biscuit, no less? Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Someday (triple j Like a Version) by Julia Jacklin (4:25, 2019) – the hauntingly beautiful cover that continues to impress. I truly can’t stop shedding a tear each listen. Really brings the lyrics to life. Our sad girl summer continues!
The Best Of: September 2020
A highly curated, even more opinionated selection of last month’s best music. If there are repeats, it’s just because the art is that good:
Most Unexpected: Someday (triple j Like a Version) by Julia Jacklin (4:25, 2019) – repeat x2.
Best Remix: Borderline (Blood Orange Remix) by Tame Impala (7:18, 2020) – just pull up a seat outside, treat yourself to your favorite cold beverage, and melt into this one
💫 Best Album 💫: Detroit 2 by Big Sean (2020) – an epic follow-up to his 2012 Detroit mixtape, with features from Nipsey Hussle, Anderson .Paak, Dave Chappelle, Erykah Badu & Travis Scott
✨ Best Track ✨: Someday (triple j Like a Version) by Julia Jacklin (4:25, 2019) – repeat 3x :)
SAVAGE MODE II
There’s no better feeling than finally having your hands on a long-awaited sequel. Of course, I’m talking about Savage Mode II by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin.
To say the follow-up to 2016’s dark & ruthless Savage Mode was highly anticipated would be an understatement.
Drake, Young Thug & Young Nudy all feature, but the most notable (& omni-present) voice on the album must be awarded to the 👑 Morgan Freeman, who lays down that narrative fire up and down the album.
When we talk about the thoughtfulness and craft of album composition, this is what we mean, from the Slaughter King himself:
“Some people just throw a bunch of songs together and put it out. But the way me and Metro do it, everything matches up. It’s like Metro scored this shit.“
Fun fact: The album artwork might bring back some 90’s/00’s nostalgia. That’s because the ATL legends brought Houston-based Pen & Pixel “out of retirement” to design the maximalist, fiery, iced out cover dripping with pure heat.
Since 2012, the Los Angeles-based trap gawd RL Grime has blessed us each October with his explosive annual Halloween mix. Overflowing with the latest hip-hop, trap, and bass HEAT across unreleased ID’s, bangers, demos, IYKYK.
This year, Halloween SZN is in full force, with weekly Twitch streams from his Sable Valley label replaying past mixes – culminating in the release of Volume IX October 29th:
Catch up or get a head start with past sets here 🎃