Brooklyn-based Becca Stevens forms an eventful, soulful, and delicately woven record ‘Regina,’ which brings both her crossover, musical passions and her literary fascination with queens and folklore into one, personal work. Featuring collaborations with the likes of Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, Laura Mvula, Jacob Collier, and David Crosby, the LP is an ensemble of high-quality musicianship from different directions. It is a journey, an invitation to explore, guided by Stevens.
The New School graduate has come a long way from her days with the Becca Stevens Band. She rose to prominence with ‘Tea Bye Sea’ back in 2008, and went on to release her two full-length albums ‘Weightless’ and ‘Perfect Animals.’ Both had received critical acclaim from critics and artists alike. Yet, while her earlier works showcased her unique jazz vocals, intricate compositions, and ability to break musical boundaries, ‘Regina’ is Becca Stevens at her prime. The talented songstress first released the compelling ‘Queen Mab’ and the enthralling folk-like ‘Well Loved’ featuring Laura Mvula, prior to the album release via GroundUP Music.
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The powerful opener ‘Venus’ with Laura Mvula beautifully molds the beginning of Stevens’s wondrous tale. With its gritty bass lines, and its clean guitar riffs, the track initially sounds more on the pop-rock side. Yet, Stevens seamlessly pulls together layers of other instrumentation like soft, marching drum patterns, and her angelic, jazz vocals to create a contemporary mix of both genres. The indie-pop cut ‘Lean On’ includes some blues acoustics, catchy lyrics, Steven’s honey voice, and soothing key changes.
‘Both Still Here’ demonstrates Jacob Collier and Stevens’s arranging abilities, and unmistakable connection. Throughout the song, the subtle chord changes, trance-like mandolin, English folk, and rhythms progressively become more pronounced. Collier’s call and response harmoniously interweaves with Stevens’ dynamic vocal range, a vocal range similar to artists like Kate Bush. The punchy, R&B inspired ‘45 Bucks’ draws upon more simpler melodic lines of mandolin and bass, but still full of attitude. Lyrics like “You can keep the money. I don’t really need it. If it’s gonna mean that I gotta talk to you,” along with some soulful background vocals, add to the delightful track.
The fifth, and Shakespeare inspired single ‘Queen Mab’ is a smooth transition from ‘45 Bucks.’ Retracing back to the tale of Queen Mab in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the track comprises of a gloomy beat, Stevens haunting vocals, and direct verses from Shakespeare himself. The sultry ‘We Knew Love’ with Alan Hampton steps back with a chilled-out jazz melody, drum brushes, acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, and Hampton’s back-up vocals. Wildly catchy and spirited, Stevens’s ‘Mercury’ is an audacious, infectious indie-pop cut that stands, while the expressive Regina,’ is a beautiful ode to Appalachian folk, and what Stevens has called her ‘alter ego.’ Tracks like euphoric ‘Harbor Hank’ and energetic ‘Well Loved’ with Laura Mvula gravitate again toward folk elements, but both in unique ways from Stevens.
Her charming ‘Ophelia’ is one of the most beautiful, laid-back acoustic arrangements on the album. Twangy guitar phrases, folk rhythms, enchanting vocals, and Shakespearean tragedy sculpt the dreamy track. The last two include the whimsical ‘The Muse’ features the legendary rocker David Crosby, and the acoustic take on Stevie Wonder’s ‘As’ with Jacob Collier.
Regina is out now.