Caiti Baker – Zinc
Caiti Baker’s debut solo album is one of those records that just doesn’t sound great on paper. A confluence of the big band jazz she loved as a child and the hip hop she fell for as a teen – all presented through a kind of indie/pop prism – it just sounds like it’s going to be too much music that doesn’t really go together.
But Baker takes it all on with such confidence that, somehow, it all works.
Zinc is packed with close harmonies, simple but powerful blues riffs, slick beats and playful handclaps. Songs like ‘Rough Old Town’ are somehow as indebted to 30s boogie woogie as they are to neo-soul. The hasty shuffle of ‘I Got That’ starts off like C.W. Stoneking but ends up like Janelle Monae. While the eerie electro-gospel of ‘Wolf’ is in a world of its own.
It doesn’t ever sound like a Beck album, the way Baker’s music is playful, without sacrificing quality, makes it feel kinda like a Beck album.
Sometimes it threatens to fall to pieces – the bluesy harp, jazzy bass, hip hop drums and funk horn blasts in ‘Over The Horizon’ is the most confronting example of these different sounds coming together – but any weirdness in these songs just makes them more intriguing, not confounding.
Of course, it helps that her voice is one of the best, and most versatile, in the country. She tackles pop, blues, soul, rock and R&B and makes it sound completely effortless. If Baker were to make a straightforward soul or pop record, it would be worthy of your attention. The fact she hasn’t makes it all the more interesting.
That Baker pulls it off so effortlessly is testament not only to her talent, but to her vision. There probably aren’t any other artists who could make an album like Zinc, because it relies so heavily on Baker’s intimate knowledge and love of the genres she tackles.
Perhaps it’s the benefit of having experienced such a rich career prior to her debut solo outing, maybe Baker’s maturity as an artist has made her less afraid to take risks, or maybe this is just the voice she’s always wanted to project. Whatever it is, Baker has made something truly unique with Zinc.