While Royce Wood Junior has built a career producing for progressive R&B artists like Nao, Kwabs, and Jamie Woon, his own solo music is a stirring mix of futuristic studio techniques and old school, heart-on-the-sleeve emotion.
It’s as eclectic of a record as we’re likely to get this year, and one that would probably fall apart if RWJ wasn’t as enjoyably candid and compelling as its centerpiece.
Originally put out back in May 2015, RWJ has re-released the record with three additional tracks, “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, “Love’s a Lonely Town”, and “Ophelia”, which are wisely integrated into the project and not just tacked on at the end.
“Honeydripper” is the perfect marriage of Wood’s electronic production style and singer-songwriter chops. It features some of his sharpest lyricism over an instrumental that blends a gooey guitar and synth stomp with booming drums. “It’s only unattainable love I can’t do without,” he croons on the hook.
His Woon collaboration here, “Jodie”, manages to be both a compelling piece of distorted indie R&B and a hilarious homage to schmaltzy ‘80s piano pop with Woon aping Michael McDonald’s garbled baritone so perfectly his rechristening as “Michael McWoonald” seems less like a gimmick and more like the only name that could possibly be appropriate.
A couple moments, like the jarring “Remembrance (Pt. 2)” or the excessively disorganized “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, don’t quite land cleanly, but it’s hard to fault RWJ for taking risks with more edgy, avant-garde fair.
Like a lot of debuts, Ashen Tang tries to cover a bit too much ground, but overall the record is vibrant and daring, and cements RWJ’s status as one of Best Fit’s artists to watch this year. As he continues to grow and hone his talents it will be fascinating to see Wood expand his solo discography.