Carol C’s songwriting is a beguiling mix of paradoxes: conflicted then empowered, haunted then optimistic. The New York City native named her first solo album Seven— co-written with producer Justin Filmer (Liquid Agents) after the number of years it took to translate her recent life journey into a transcendent narrative. “All My Love,” the first single off Seven is both spacious and ethereal. Dream pop? Yes, indeed, her songs are gorgeous, blissed-out reveries that give glimpses into a fantastic parallel world. Avant-soul? Listen to how she caresses her melodies, and marvel at the amount of emotion she’s able to bring to the simplest phrases. Tropical rhythms? A warm Caribbean wind has always blown through her mixes. She’s a skilled hand at digital soundscaping, too – her electronic experimentation might not be flashy, but it’s fearless nevertheless. The New York City-based DJ, party promoter, singer, songwriter, and sonic pioneer alchemizes all of these elements effortlessly. She’s the walking embodiment of a “chill” playlist; time and again, she demonstrates that she’s still far ahead of the pack.
Carol C has been a force in NYC pop for some time (“a modern-day Elysian goddess,” in the words of CMJ) and it’s hard to believe that she’s never released a solo album before. Seven, the first set released under her own name, extends the musical ideas – and the cosmopolitan vibes – of her adventurous work with Si*Sé, the acclaimed group she’s fronted since the turn of the millennium. It also radiates the playful sophistication of Carol C’s DJ sets. She’s learned something from every collaboration she’s ever done – she’s worked with some heavyweights, including David Byrne, Thievery Corporation, King Britt, Nickodemus, and many others – and she’s applying all of those lessons here.
The sultry “All My Love” bears the stamp of the many talented people who’ve helped Carol C bring this vision to life, including producer and mixing engineer, Mario McNulty (Prince, David Bowie) and mastering engineer, Bob Power (De La Soul, Erykah Badu). But mostly, it’s a showcase for the singer herself, who makes every syllable count, and who beckons the listener deeper into the groove with every measure.
New York has been very good to Carol C, and she’s happy to shine some of that love back on her city. The Navegante-directed video for “All My Love” is, among other things, a deep appreciation of the city that only a long-time resident would make: there are shots of the Empire State Building, but also images of the Domino Factory on the East River, Orchard Street on the busy Lower East Side, and kids playing in the spray of a hydrant. It’s all quintessentially New York, right down to the graffiti that, thanks to animator Maryam Parwana, pulses with life. When Carol C sings, everything dances.